WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congressman Brian Mast (FL-21) called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough to explain why an increasing number of veterans are being denied access to their mental health providers. 

“If a veteran has developed trust and a relationship with their mental health practitioner, then they should be able to keep seeing that practitioner,” said Congressman Mast. “It takes time for any individual, not just a veteran, to feel comfortable enough with a doctor to open up about past trauma and afflictions. By cutting off access to their existing mental health providers, the VA is forcing veterans to relive events and situations that have left them with deep wounds. This is not a risk we can afford to take given that the suicide rate among veterans remains unacceptably high and is on the rise.” 

Congressman Mast sent a letter to Secretary McDonough demanding answers as to why veterans are being cut off from their mental health providers and if these denials are tied to an official policy change.

For years, the VA has allowed veterans to receive outside care because of an inability to retain adequate mental health professionals. This flexibility allowed veterans to escape the VA’s poor experience of last-minute cancellations for appointments and high-turnover rates among mental health staff. 

Now, veterans are being told they have to return to that system because the VA will no longer cover referrals to outside mental health providers. As of January, Congressman Mast’s office has been contacted by over 70 veterans, relatives, and mental health providers about this matter. 

The full text of the letter can be found here.