Washington, DC—Congressman John Curtis (R-UT) and Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) on Friday introduced the Peer Support for Veterans Families Act to expand resources available for essential caregivers of veterans with service-connected mental health disorders.

“Our veterans risked their lives to protect the freedoms that we enjoy daily — our top priority should be ensuring these American heroes have the necessary resources to succeed as they transition to civilian life,” Curtis said. “We also must help out the loved ones who supported our veterans throughout their military career, particularly caregivers helping veterans manage the debilitating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from military service. I am proud to support the Peer Support for Veteran Families Act to deliver critical tools so that veteran caregivers will be able to effectively support the needs of their loved ones dealing with these crippling mental health disorders.”

“The folks who support our veterans need more support,” Finkenauer said.“Caring for someone with a mental health diagnosis can take a toll, putting family members and loved ones at risk for anxiety, depression and other health problems. The Peer Support for Veterans Families Act will help ensure we’re providing needed support for our caregivers, just like we see in private healthcare systems. I want to thank Congressman Curtis for working on this important bill that could change lives.”

Support for the Peer Support for Veterans Families Act

The Peer Support for Veterans Families Act is endorsed by: the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), the American Mental Health Counselors Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Association of Suicidology, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and The American Legion.

Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: “The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention applauds Rep. Finkenauer’s leadership in supporting the mental health of our nation’s Veterans, their family members, and their care givers. Too many Veterans are dying by suicide and too often are their loved ones isolated in moments of hardship and distress. This legislation will improve Veteran mental health care and support veteran families, and we urge Congress to swiftly pass this bill into law.”

Tammy Barlet, Associate Director of VFW’s National Legislative Service: “The VFW values the key role that a veteran’s support system plays in a veteran’s health and well-being. The VFW supports Congresswoman Finkenauer and Congressman Curtis’s Peer Support for Veteran Families Act. This bill would provide education and peer support programs for family members and caregivers of veterans with mental health disorders. It would also giving priory to organizations with military and veteran culture competence, and programs using technology to reach those living in rural areas.”

Background

The Peer Support for Veterans Families Act directs the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to set up a pilot program in 10 medical facilities across the country to offer education and peer support programs to veterans’ caregivers and families. With the permission of the veteran, caregivers will receive training in understanding mental illness, coping with stress, and de-escalating crisis situations. The novel initiative will allow caregivers to learn from and support each other as well as significantly improve the quality of life for thousands of veterans across the US.

The bill specifically directs the VA to choose sites throughout the US that lack the necessary resources to administer this programming, especially those in rural communities. Selected VA sites would be enabled to contract with mental health care provider organizations who are experienced at working with veterans and their families.

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