Nov. 7 (UPI) -- The House on Tuesday passed legislation allowing veterans to access mental healthcare even if they didn't receive an honorable discharge from the military.
Under current law, veterans who don't receive the honorable discharge status can't receive federal benefits like healthcare. The new legislation would require Veterans Affairs to provide mental health assessments and offer treatment for at-risk veterans regardless of their discharge status.
Marine Corps veteran Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., introduced the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, which the House unanimously passed. Coffman served in both the first Iraq War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Today, this House sent a critical message to our men and women in uniform," Coffman said in a statement. "That message is that you are not alone. We are here to help those suffering from the 'invisible' wounds of war.
"The passage of [this bill] is an important bipartisan effort to ensure that our combat veterans receive the mental health care services they need. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line," he said.
A May 2017 report by the Government Accountability Office found that 62 percent of 91,764 service members separated from the military for misconduct between 2011 and 2015 had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or other conditions related to mental illness.
The vote comes on the same day police in Texas revealed former Air Force service member Devin Kelley escaped from a behavioral health facility in New Mexico in 2012. Kelley is accused of killing 26 people in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church Sunday.