Representative Matt Cartwright - official portraitPRESS RELEASE – (from U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright) – Washington, DC – Today (Nov. 19, 2015) – U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide veterans who have served in combat from all military operations with greater access to mental health resources.

The Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act, introduced with the support of 15 colleagues, would eliminate a current five-year window that veterans face within which they must seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their “higher priority status.”  If passed the legislation would allow veterans to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves.

“This commonsense piece of legislation would ensure the services and treatments that are available to recently discharged veterans are available to all who have served in combat,” said Rep. Cartwright.  “It is time we ensure that the veterans living in northeastern Pennsylvania and across America have the fullest access to the health care benefits they have earned.”

While the diagnosis of physical injuries typically is made before or shortly after separation from the military, mental illnesses may not manifest themselves until years later.  Serious mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder were virtually undiagnosed in veterans of conflicts prior to 2001.

Rep. Cartwright concluded, “As the United States military and the VA continue to improve treatment for those who have served, there remains a gap for veterans struggling with mental illnesses.  This is a gap we need to close.”

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