Veteran PEER Act would harness peer-to-peer relationships to more comprehensively treat veterans’ mental health conditions
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced bipartisan legislation to expand veterans’ access to peer counseling specialists to better combat the risks of suicide and treat associated mental health conditions.
“The Veteran PEER Act would establish peer specialists in patient-aligned care teams within VA medical centers to undertake veteran outreach. The peer to peer relationship among veterans is an effective way to enable more access,” said Blumenthal today in a hearing of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“Our nation has a responsibility to ensure our veterans have access to quality behavioral and mental health treatment,” said Blunt. “Given their shared experiences, peer specialists are uniquely positioned to provide veterans the support they need in their care and recovery. I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and help connect more veterans with peer counselors who can make a difference in their lives.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) currently employs peer specialists to assist veterans in treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders. Peer specialists support fellow veterans and encourage recovery by helping veterans access health services and navigate the VA healthcare system; and teaching coping and positive health-affirming behavior. The VA was instructed by a 2012 Executive Order to hire and train 800 peer counselors by December 31, 2013, to treat the estimated 1.5 million veterans requiring mental health services.
The Veteran Partners’ Efforts to Enhance Reintegration Act (Veteran PEER Act) would expand veterans’ access to peer specialist services by specifically targeting shortcomings in the current program, including peer specialists’ restricted participation in primary care services; persistent stigma attached to seeking treatment for mental health disorders; and under-promoted proven successes of the peer specialist program in veteran reintegration.
The Veteran PEER Act would: