Senate Unanimously Passes Tester-Backed Veterans’ COMPACT Act to Enhance Access to Mental Health Care

Package includes Ranking Member’s bills to create task force on outdoor recreation for veterans and improve women veterans’ access to health care

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester today applauded the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Veterans’ Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment Act of 2020, or Veterans’ COMPACT Act, a package of critical mental health provisions to support women veterans, eliminate emergency mental health care costs, and assist servicemembers transitioning to civilian life.

“I applaud my Senate colleagues for quickly passing the Veterans’ COMPACT Act to increase access to critical mental health care and enhance the lives of our nation’s heroes,” said Ranking Member Tester. “Effectively curbing the growing national suicide rate starts by taking an aggressive, all-hands-on-deck approach with an increased focus on supporting our veterans and those who are most frequently left behind, including women and individuals at-risk of homelessness. Building on the success of my landmark Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, this bipartisan, bicameral package will ensure we’re doing just that by implementing the most effective tools to connect more veterans with life-saving care.”

The Veterans’ COMPACT Act features the following nine provisions that complement Tester’s Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act to reduce veteran suicide:

1.     Care for those in crisis by providing acute crisis care for emergent suicide symptoms.

2.     Help veterans build networks of support by creating a pilot program on information sharing between Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and designated relatives and friends of veterans regarding the assistance and benefits available to the veterans.

3.     Track outcomes of VA’s outreach to transitioning servicemembers by conducting an annual report on the Solid Start program of the Department.

4.     Tailor education for family members by creating an education program for family members and caregivers of veterans with mental health disorders.

5.     Create an outdoor Recreation Task Force by establishing an Interagency Task Force on Outdoor Recreation for veterans.

6.     Contact veterans who have not had contact with VA in two or more years to encourage them to receive comprehensive exams so that they continue their eligibility for coverage of emergency care not related to service-connected disabilities.

7.     Require annual VA Police de-escalation and crisis intervention training.

8.     Conduct a gap analysis of VA programs that provide assistance to women veterans who are homeless.

9.     Provide a report on locations where women veterans are using health care from the VA.

Tester has been leading the charge in Congress to connect American servicemembers and veterans with mental health resources to heal invisible wounds of war following their service. As Ranking Member, he introduced his bipartisan Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act last Congress to bolster VA’s mental health workforce and increase rural veterans' access to care, while expanding veterans’ access to alternative and local treatment options like animal therapy, outdoor sports and activities, yoga, and acupuncture. President Donald Trump signed Tester’s monumental bill into law on October 17, 2020.