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10 January 2018, 11:20 | Melissa Porter
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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed legislation that supports veterans' mental health as they transition from service to civilian life.
Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin says veterans will be able to use VA or the private sector.
The order, "Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life", is specifically geared toward combating veteran suicide, Military Times' Leo Shane first reported.
Trump signed laws past year aimed at expediting the appeals process for veterans' benefits and extending the so-called choice program, which allows veterans more choices about where they get health care when the VA can't provide it.
"We want them to get the highest care and the care that they so richly deserve".
The order directs the secretaries of the Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs departments to submit a plan within 60 days providing "seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources" for veterans in the year following military service.
In signing this executive order, Shulkin said, the president has provided "clear guidance to further ensure our veterans and their families know that we are focusing on ways to improve their ability to move forward and achieve their goals in life after service".
Shulkin called the number "unacceptable" and said preventing suicides was his agency's "single top priority".
Veterans who leave the service with "bad paper" discharges - disciplinary separations that can bar recipients from collecting VA education, disability, and medical benefits - wouldn't qualify for new benefits under the executive order.
This includes suicide prevention services and a 24-hour veterans' hotline.
- Expand peer community outreach and group sessions in the VA Whole Health initiative from 18 Whole Health flagship facilities to all facilities.
A senior administration official also said the costs total a "couple million" dollars and will come from resources already available to the VA and the DOD.
White House officials said the Department of Defense also plans to start the transition process sooner, so it's less abrupt, although the details and timetables are still being worked out.
If you're thinking about suicide, are anxious about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.
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