Sen. Erpenbach and Rep. Hintz Unveil Bill Targeting
Mental Health Gap for Veterans Most in Need
Madison – Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) have unveiled a bill that would allow low-income veterans to receive a voucher for immediate mental health care for treatment such as emergency counseling, alcohol and drug treatment, and marriage counseling. The bill would allow legislators to maximize an existing Assistance for Needy Veterans program with resources that are already set aside to address mental health services at a time when we know veterans need help; before the federal VA mental health program is able to step in.
“A lot of veterans returning home have gone through some horrific experiences and need mental health services for themselves and their families,” said Senator Erpenbach, “As legislators, it is our job to make sure Wisconsin is nimble and fearless as we work in serving our veterans, just like veterans have been for us. With this bill an eligible veteran can walk in the door of a counseling clinic or medical facility asking for help and know that their expenses for treatment will be covered.”
“It is important that we maximize the resources available to address the needs we know exist,” said Rep. Hintz, “We know that less than half of the money set aside for Wisconsin’s Needy Veterans Program is not being used, giving us an opportunity to shift those available dollars to address the gaps in care we know exist for those most in need. This bill is a win-win-win for veterans, their families, and Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Assistance for Needy Veterans program currently provides medical equipmentandother items such as dentures, hearing aids, and eye glasses to low income veterans who are not covered by VA services or Medicaid. Unfortunately, only about half of the money set aside for this program is being spent and the remainder is being lapsed back.
LRB 2958 fills a need for mental health supports by providing a “gap” reimbursement while veterans and their families wait for services from VA for mental health. Just like the other health services covered by the current needy veterans program, veterans and their families seeking mental health services could receive vouchers from the Wisconsin DVA to cover mental health services. The bill would require the DVA to issue the vouchers within 48 hours of the request, and allows Wisconsin’s local county service officers to waive income restrictions in special circumstances so that veterans in need of any income can be served almost immediately.
(Fiscal Analysis of current Needy Veterans Program on next page)
Wisconsin Assistance for Needy Veterans Program Legislative Appropriation and Real Expenditures(Leg Fiscal Bureau)
Fiscal Year Appropriation Expenditures
2010-11 1,241,800 682,200
2011-12 970,000 488,600
2012-13 970,000 447,100
2013-14 970,000 324,500
2014-15 970,000 268,300*