Pursuant to section 201 of the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment Act of 2020 (or the Veterans COMPACT Act of 2020), VA is supposed to provide free emergency mental health care to any veteran. How that is to be implemented was submitted as an interim final rule for public comment on Friday, January 13, 2023. As soon as this rule is finalized, that free emergency mental health will be available to all veterans, regardless of whether they are enrolled in VA's healthcare system or not.
The new regulation would provide care at one of VA's medical facilities, or it would mean VA must pay for care at a non-VA facility (by paying that facility directly or by reimbursing the veteran if they paid for the care themselves). This is great news, however, it is important to understand the limits of this new regulation.
It only applies to veterans as defined by the statute. For example, most veterans who have a "punitive" discharge that was the product of a court martial will not be eligible for this benefit. There are two types of "punitive" discharges: (1) The generally known dishonorable discharge, and the (2) bad conduct discharge. Too often, a veteran experiences trauma while in the military which contributes to behavior leading to a court martial and a bad conduct discharge. Unfortunately, these individuals will not receive this benefit, even though they may be in need of it. However, even in those cases, individuals who experienced sexual assault while in the military will be eligible.
The main news here is that a veteran does not have to be enrolled in VA's healthcare system to receive this benefit. If any veteran needs emergency mental health help, as soon as the final rule is implemented, they can now just go get it without worrying about the cost.
Also, very important to know: If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call 988 to speak to receive 24/7 confidential crisis support. Veterans can call this number, then press 1 to speak to someone who specializes in supporting veterans and has resources specifically for that group. Or you can go to this website: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/