U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., is backing a proposal to ensure veterans seeking private mental health care will receive better treatment.

On Monday, Bilirakis showcased his support for the “ VA Clinical Training in Evidence-based treatments And Military (TEAM) Culture Act” which U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., introduced last week. U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., is also backing the proposal.

According to the Florida Republican’s office, the bill “will require that veterans receive culturally competent, evidence-based mental health treatment from private providers, as is already required of VA mental health providers.”

Bilirakis, who sits on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, weighed in this week on why he was backing the bill.

“The staggering suicide rate that continues to plague the veteran community is much higher than the rates found in the general population.  This problem is indicative of the fact that we are not doing enough to recognize the warning signs of those who may be at risk and providing effective interventions and supports needed to prevent this tragic outcome.  It is imperative that both those within the VA and out in the community are properly trained on veteran-specific mental health issues and that they all better understand treating those from a military culture. I’m glad to join forces in this bipartisan initiative to ensure our heroes get the help they need,” said Bilirakis.

“Suicide amongst our veterans is and has been a public health crisis in this country. The suicide rate is unconscionably high, and we know that the only way to reduce it is by providing our veterans with the best mental health care possible. After serving our country bravely, the least we can do for these women and men is provide them with clinically effective mental health treatment that respects the military experience,” said Blunt Rochester. “I heard from veterans across Delaware about the importance of access to high-quality mental health care, which is why I’m proud to introduce the VA Clinical Training in Evidence-based treatments And Military (TEAM) Culture Act, which will require training to better allow private providers to understand veterans and their experiences. Providing quality health care to our veterans is upholding our end of the bargain, and the VA Clinical TEAM Culture Act will help us do just that.”

“Veteran suicide is a public health crisis, and we need to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to save lives,” said Levin. “All mental health care providers must be prepared to meet the unique challenges veterans face, which is why this bill helps ensure non-VA mental health providers are trained to treat veterans. I’m proud to join Reps. Blunt Rochester and Bilirakis in introducing this bipartisan legislation as we work together to address the epidemic of veteran suicide.”

The bill will have private mental health providers “follow the same standards and requirements as VA mental health providers” and “take courses on military culture and on evaluation and management of suicide, PTSD, TBI, and military sexual trauma (MST).”

Last week, the bill was sent to the House Veterans Affairs Committee. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.


Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Yes it is “staggering” about the suicide rate amongst my fellow Veterans. I too, have some “Mental” issues along or contributed by some Pain issues having had 12 Spinal Surgeries. When I last visited the V.A. on Little Rd.my assigned Doctor unbelievably shouted out of office. “If he wants any Pain pills, tell him to FORGET IT.” So I got up and left, NEVER to return to any V.A. facility since, which was about 5 or 6 years ago. I was also told there would be at least a 3 or 4 month WAITING TIME to see a Psychiatrist who would be able to I help me….


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