Congressman Murphy’s bill to help student veterans passes U.S. House, heads to Senate

Military

WASHINGTON (WNCT) – In an effort to lower veteran suicide rates, the U.S. House passed a bill sponsored by Congressman Greg Murphy which is focused on getting student veterans the mental health services they need. The vote was 420-4.

The bill, called the “Student Veterans Counseling Centers Eligibility Act,” was introduced by Murphy back in June. The bill opens up eligibility for students who have finished their military service to receive mental health and counseling services, even if they haven’t seen combat.

“The issue to which I will speak is exceedingly personal to me and my district as I represent close to 90,000 veterans,” Murphy in his speech to the U.S. House back in June.

The bill expands eligibility for veterans to receive mental health services and counseling at veteran centers to students using a Veterans Administration education program. Veteran centers are community-based and not tied in with VA Medical Center campuses.

Before this bill, only combat veterans were eligible.

“When I think of our military members, when they sign on the dotted line that they’re going to make a pact with our country, with the American citizenry, I don’t think that ends the day that they finish their service,” Murphy said. “I think really, our part as citizens of the country just starts.”.

Nicole Messina, is the Associate Director of ECU’s Student Veteran Services. She said seeking help at a vet center can be much less intimidating for students than going through a VA Hospital.

“When they separated from the military, they may not even know they were missing it until they get back in a group setting with other veterans,” said Messina. “Which is why even for a lot of universities, you have a veterans lounge where they can kind of go and be together and get a little bit about military camaraderie.”

She added it’s important because while the university does offer counseling services for all students, veterans have very specific struggles which can require more specialized care.

“The Vet Center has people who are trained in trauma who are trained to understand veteran issues,” said Messina.

The bill will require about $1 million in funding, but Murphy doesn’t expect to see much opposition on that.

“You know it’s been a big part of my tenure, so far as a member of Congress, to put veterans issues first and this is something I think will be a very good step forward for those veterans to get back into the community and help make themselves whole once again,” Murphy said.

The next step for the bill is to go to the U.S. Senate to be passed before it can be signed into law.

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