State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) is carrying legislation that would assist veterans suffering from the many mental health issues associated with military service who lack treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Not all veterans qualify for full VA medical benefits. A majority only receive care for specific illnesses or disabilities related to their military service.

Even with coverage, some veterans put off seeking treatment until it's too late due to the many hurdles and red tape involved in dealing with the VA.

The bill, SB135, proposed by Jones would authorize the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) to work collaboratively with the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) to develop a comprehensive plan dedicated to the care, treatment, and recovery of Alabama veterans' behavioral health needs.

"The Veterans Mental Health Care bill will help assure that treatment for veterans, which has been long overlooked, will receive more attention," Jones said. "We know that veterans and their immediate family members make up approximately 25% of the state population. These men and women who have served deserve our help and support."

The bill would create a commission to study how to best help veterans facing post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, substance abuse, and many other issues. The commission would then be required to present a report identifying the scope of the problem and the most effective treatments.

The bill would also allow pilot programs to be created, where medical facilities specializing in this type of care must bid on contracts to assist veterans. These pilot programs would run under the ADMH with the consultation of ADVA.

For years, studies conducted by the VA, mental health institutions and various scientists have shown that veterans are at a much greater risk of mental health and substance abuse issues, and the issue has been exacerbated since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism.

Alabama already receives some federal funding earmarked for veterans, but Jones hopes this bill will be a first step towards creating a system to allow for the treatment of more than 400,000 veterans who call Alabama home.

According to lawmakers who spoke to 1819 News, the bill will receive a vote on the Senate floor on Tuesday, where it is not expected to meet any opposition. After passing the Senate, it will go to the House where, again, no opposition is expected.

Twenty-two veterans a day lose the battle to post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues. If you or someone you know are struggling or having suicidal thoughts, you can reach out to your local emergency services or call the Veteran's Crisis Line by dialing 988 or texting 838255.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email or on Twitter @BradleyCoxAL.

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