VetsFirst is constantly lobbying Congress on the serious challenges many disabled veterans and service members face when transitioning from military to civilian life. S. 785 – The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Improvement Act was sent to the President for signature. This critical bill provides veterans with transition assistance, mental health support and telehealth access. Enactment commits VA to deliver bold new initiatives to improve veteran mental health and well-being and help bring an end to the tragic trends in veteran suicide.

Named after former Navy SEAL Commander Hannon, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress after serving our nation honorably for more than 23 years. He actively helped other veterans with war-related physical and mental trauma, but regrettably died from suicide in 2018. Under the law, VA will implement programs that improved Commander Hannon’s life, including:

  • Bolstering VA’s mental health workforce to serve more disabled veterans by giving VA direct hiring authority for more mental health professions, offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers, and placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator in every VA hospital;
  • Improving rural veterans’ access to mental healthcare by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services and offering grants to non-VA organizations that provide mental health services or alternative treatment to veterans;
  • Studying and investing in innovative treatment options by expanding veterans’ access to alternative programs and investing in VA research on veterans’ suicide risk and identifying and treating mental illness;
  • Holding VA accountable for its mental healthcare and suicide prevention efforts by examining how VA manages its suicide prevention resources and how VA provides seamless care and information sharing for veterans seeking mental healthcare from both VA and community providers; and
  • Establishing a grant program that requires VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventive services.

VetsFirst looks forward to working with VA on implementing the new law. If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact