Veterans to be Eligible for Expanded Mental Health Resources

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EDINBURG – Veterans will soon be eligible for expanded mental health resources after they return home.

An executive order signed by President Donald Trump titled, “Supporting Our Veterans During Their Transition From Uniformed Service to Civilian Life” will ensure no veteran is excluded from receiving services.

Currently, only 40 percent of new veterans qualify for enrollment in health. The 60 percent that don't is mainly due to lack of verified service connection related to medical issues.

The executive order clears that red tape allowing all new veterans to qualify.

Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Wood explained, "Some veterans have a very smooth transition and integrate back into civilian life with very few bumps, others have struggles, sometimes it's delayed. That first year is kind of a honeymoon period, but then year two, three, four, that’s when those challenges start to pop up.”

Dr. Wood works to make the return home easier from a mental health standpoint. She’s part of a team who work with new veterans and veterans who retired decades ago.

Jonathan Romero and Patrick Robert wish they had the support Dr. Wood and her team offer when they retired from the service less than five years ago. Both veterans said coming home brought challenges.

“Maybe I could have done something beforehand, but you're still not prepared for a 180-degree drastic turn,” said Romero, an Army veteran.

Roberts said he knows he wasn’t the only one scrambling for resources from Veteran Affairs, but unable to get any due to backlogs.

The new executive order calls for the Secretary of Defense, Veteran Affairs and Homeland Security to develop a plan that will offer new veteran's mental health care.

“That first year is a year of a lot of change for a service member. They're coming out of the military, they're integrating back into civilian life, back with their family, maybe starting a new job, so there's a lot of opportunity and a lot of great things that occur during that year, but it can also come with a lot of challenges,” said Dr. Wood.

The plan will take time to develop.

Romero and Roberts believe the help can work, if the much needed support is provided immediately and backlogs don't slow down efforts.

Veterans can find a list of resources and related stories here.

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