U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) are introducing bipartisan legislation in the Senate and House to support the mental health needs of servicemembers and veterans as they return to civilian life in their local communities.
The Daniel J. Harvey Jr. and Adam Lambert Improving Servicemember Transition to Reduce Veteran Suicide Act—which was named to honor the memory of two Marines who died by suicide, Iowan Cpl. Adam Lambert and Rhode Islander Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Harvey Jr.—would create a pilot program to add a new component to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Specifically, the bill is designed to counsel servicemembers about mental health, the challenges that they might face during transition to civilian life and how that might affect their mental health, and the services available to them at their local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility.
“We can never forget the lives of Marine Corps veterans Cpl. Adam Lambert and Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Harvey Jr., two heroes who fought bravely to defend our country. We owe it to them, to their fellow servicemembers, and to their friends and family to work in a bipartisan way to provide resources for our veterans who are adjusting to civilian life and may be facing serious challenges. Our nation has a duty to our veterans and their loved ones to ensure that our heroes have the care and support they are promised when they return home, and this bipartisan legislation will help do exactly that,” said Senator Joni Ernst, the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate.
“Cpl. Adam Lambert and Lance Cpl. Daniel Harvey were American heroes. We are all well aware of the difficulties many servicemembers have transitioning to civilian life and we owe it to our veterans to help them during this challenging time”, said Rep. Miller-Meeks, a retired Lt. Colonel and member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “It is so important that we continue to end the stigma around mental health treatment and encourage everyone to get help when they need it. This is yet another bipartisan piece of legislation that will honor an Iowa hero and improve mental health in our veteran community.”
The pilot program would be established at ten different Transition Assistance Center locations, which serve at least 300 members annually.
TAP counseling would include discussion related to possible loss of community or identity crises while transitioning to civilian life, as well as the five stages of grief. Servicemembers would be provided with information regarding the mental health programs and benefits at their local VA facility. The bill would also require servicemembers to submit their medical records to the VA regardless of whether they chose to utilize benefits.
The bill would also require a social worker or mental health professional from their local VA to call the servicemember within 90 days of transitioning to set up an appointment. After an assessment, the Secretaries of Defense and VA would assess whether to expand the pilot program after five years.
Last year, Senator Ernst helped get the bipartisan Sergeant Daniel Somers Veterans Network of Support Act signed into law. This legislation increases access to mental health support for veterans across Iowa and the nation. The bill creates a pilot program to allow active duty servicemembers transitioning to civilian life to designate up to 10 loved ones to receive information from the VA about benefits and services available to veterans through the department and community partners.