Veterans receiving mental health care and substance abuse treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs stand to gain a powerful new ally under legislation introduced by Alabama 2nd District U.S. Rep. Martha Roby.
H.R. 1712, the Protection and Advocacy for Veterans Act, would empower state and local Protection and Advocacy agencies to directly investigate the quality of mental health care and substance abuse treatment provided to veterans at the VA and allow these agencies to advocate for patients found to be receiving inadequate care.
Protection and Advocacy agencies monitor the quality of state-operated hospitals, clinics, psychiatric wards, prisons, and other facilities. Their agents have the authority to inspect medical records and take legal action on behalf of patients when necessary. Roby’s bill would authorize funding for a pilot program testing the feasibility of utilizing Protection and Advocacy agencies to provide this service at the VA.
“For 40 years, Protection and Advocacy agencies in Alabama and around the country have provided a critical service by monitoring the quality of care in state-operated hospitals, clinics, and other facilities,” said Roby in a news release. “I believe bringing this degree of expertise in patient advocacy to the VA would greatly benefit veterans, particularly those in need of mental health care or substance abuse treatment.”
Roby continued, “In recent years, Congress has boosted funding for mental health care services and enacted legislation making it easier for the VA to attract mental health care professionals. This is a step in the right direction, but I believe we can do better. We owe it to our veterans to bring all available resources to bear to ensure access to proper treatment.”
Roby’s bill has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Watch Roby discuss her new bill below: