A seamless path to VA healthcare

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Bill would automatically enroll eligible veterans into care while transitioning back to civilian life

Eligible veterans would be automatically enrolled in Department of Veterans Affairs health care when leaving military service if a bill passed by the House of Representatives in January becomes law.

The Ensuring Veterans’ Smooth Transition Act (EVEST) would give the VA 60 days to notify qualified veterans of their enrollment after receiving eligibility information from the Defense Department. The VA would also be required to offer guidance to veterans looking to opt-out of the enrollment.

The bill was introduced in July of last year by Rep. Mark Takano of California, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman.

Currently, veterans must apply for the benefits they earned in service to their nation, including health care and compensation. DAV service officers and benefits advocates across the country provide this service and others free of charge to any veteran looking for help.

The EVEST Act would shift the burdensome bureaucratic red tape off the shoulders of those who defended our freedom to the federal agency charged with providing their care.

Seamlessly enrolling veterans in the VA may not only ease the process of accessing benefits, it may help stem the tragedy of veteran suicide. A Defense Department inspector general report released in November finds that the Pentagon “did not adequately screen for suicide risk or provide uninterrupted mental health care to transitioning service members” as required by federal guidelines.

“The seamless enrollment into VA care means veterans wouldn’t be left on their own once their time in the military comes to a close,” said National Legislative Director Joy Ilem.

The EVEST Act is aligned with DAV’s annual legislative priority to strengthen the VA’s capacity to deliver timely, high-quality care to America’s veterans.

“Suicide is preventable and VA’s comprehensive public health approach calls on everyone to get involved. Ensuring veterans in crisis have access to care and interventions when and where they need them is essential to saving lives,” said Ilem. “DAV remains committed to supporting initiatives that will offer superior care to veterans of all eras.”

“We know that veterans are much more likely to use VA services and care when the process is simple,” Takano said in a House Rules Committee hearing advocating for the bill. “And we know that VA care is world-class.”

The Biden administration said it supports the proposed legislation but signaled some potential difficulties executing its intent.

“There may be challenges implementing this bill as drafted,” the administration wrote in a statement of policy, but added it “looks forward to working with Congress on how best to operationalize its objective.”

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or text 838255.

You can track updates to this and other legislation affecting veterans and their families by joining DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at davcan.org.