Veteran mental health addressed with COMPACT Act

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 11:43 PM EST
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(WBNG) - This week marks a victory for veterans nationwide when it comes to mental health. As of Jan. 17, the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment Act of 2020, also known as the COMPACT Act, presents an expansion of care offered to veterans.

“The visible wounds of war are easy to see,” said Director Michael Middaugh of Veteran Services for Tioga County. “Those who came home with missing limbs or with physical injuries, we can see those every day and we can be very empathic to those. Many, many more suffer from the invisible wounds of war.”

To better address those who are battling the war within, the COMPACT Act is working to combat the stigma on a national scale.

“There’s still a stigma attached inside the military complex that we are strong, we don’t bow to anything, we don’t cow to anything, and we don’t let those things become a problem, because if they become a problem, they could affect our careers,” said Middaugh. “Unfortunately, we carry that mentality with us when we come home. It’s ok, there shouldn’t be any stigmas attached to mental health challenges that people face.”

Middaugh went over who qualifies for this extra help regardless of VA enrollment status.

“You’re having a mental health challenge, you’re in a crisis mode and you’re having suicidal ideations, or thoughts of harming others,” said the director. “Instead of not doing anything or getting any type of help or not knowing what’s out there, with this, you can take yourself to any local hospital that has an emergency room and seek care for that help.”

According to the Syracuse VA Medical Center, veterans in a suicidal crisis can visit any health care facility, VA or not, for emergency care.

“For a lot of our veterans that live in rural communities like ours, we don’t have any public transportation,” said Middaugh. “They may not have transportation to get there. Call an ambulance. This act also covers your transportation cost to get to that emergency treatment.”

Once at the destination, coverage also includes inpatient care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days.

“You just tell the hospital when you go there you’re a veteran. They notify the VA,” said Middaugh. “The VA has the ability to verify your veteran eligibility status internally and if you’re not in the healthcare system they’ll do that.”

If accidently billed for care at a VA medical care facility, the Syracuse VA Medical Center said to contact the local VA patient advocate. If help was received at a traditional hospital and a bill gets sent your way, they say to give a written and signed request to be reimbursed to the local VA medical facility community care office.