New Vets' MH Commission to Look at Value of Complementary Practices

NYAPRS Note: A newly formed federal Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery Commission has been launched, with one of the group’s goals to include looking at the benefits on making the inclusion of complementary treatments a standard for veterans’ treatment. These include music therapy, equine therapy, training and caring for service dogs, yoga therapy, acupuncture therapy, meditation therapy, outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, art therapy, magnetic resonance therapy and others.” See below for more details.

Leinenkugel Tapped to Lead Commission Focused on Veterans' Mental Health

By Chris Vetter Leader-Telegram staff July 25, 2018

When Jake Leinenkugel, then-senior adviser to the White House for the Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke at the Chippewa Valley VA Clinic earlier this month, he talked passionately about the need to meet the mental health needs of veterans, and explore ways to reduce suicides, as well as discussing ideas to make them healthier.

Now, Leinenkugel has been tapped by President Donald Trump to lead a VA commission focused on veterans’ mental health treatment.

The Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery Commission held its first hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and the group will meet again today.

“It’s a very crucial and needed commission, to explore VA medical health care and ensure they get the right treatment,” Leinenkugel said Tuesday night after 14 hours of testimony. “We’ll be looking at alternative procedures and alternative medicine we’re currently not using. We’ll be coming up with recommendations over the next several months.”

Leinenkugel said he was honored to be selected to lead the commission.

“It was unexpected. I got the news three weeks ago. It’s something I very much wanted to be part of,” he said.

The VA sent a news release Tuesday morning touting the selection of Leinenkugel.

“Jake has been an ambassador for change at VA, working to implement President Trump’s policies throughout the department over the past year and a half,” said acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke in a statement Tuesday. “As leader of this important new commission, Jake will continue to advocate for better care and services for his fellow veterans.”

Leinenkugel, who served in the U.S. Marines for six years, along with five more years in the reserves, focused his 18 months as senior adviser on finding ways to reduce suicides and get veterans the help they need. He has since stepped down as senior adviser and moved back to Chippewa Falls, but continues to work for the VA in a consulting role, such as on this commission.

Mike Hanke, director of the veterans’ homeless program at Klein Hall in Chippewa Falls, said he’s pleased to see the VA focus on mental health issues and that Leinenkugel was a good choice to lead the commission.

“If we reflect on veterans’ homelessness, veterans’ suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder — all the negative things surrounding mental health — it’s the same problems and issues,” Hanke said. “I believe Jake’s involvement in the community, and he can reflect on their needs as a former Marine. He definitely has ‘skin in the game’ and can maintain the focus on veterans’ mental health.”

Dave Zien, a former state lawmaker from the Chippewa County town of Wheaton, is also a veteran. He attended a one-day retreat Monday that was devoted to discussing post-traumatic stress disorder, and he said mental health of veterans needs to be talked about more.

“Veterans’ mental health isn’t just for the vets — it affects the whole family,” Zien said. “And it has been ignored for years, until recently. A lot of the veterans need that extra attention — the mental, physical and emotional treatment.”

Zien praised the selection of Leinenkugel to lead the commission.

“It’s inspiring that Jake is going to do this,” Zien said. “All veterans in the United States will benefit from Jake’s compassion.”

Leinenkugel served as president of Leinenkugel Brewing Co. for 25 years, from 1989 until retiring in 2014.

More Information on the Cover Commission from the Federal Register

The purpose of the COVER Commission is to examine the evidence-based therapy treatment model used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for treating mental health conditions of Veterans and the potential benefits of incorporating complementary and integrative health approaches as standard practice throughout the Department.

The Commission will:

  1. Examine the efficacy of the evidence-based therapy model used by VA to treat mental health illnesses and identify areas of improvement;
  2. conduct a patient-centered survey within each VISN to examine: The experiences of veterans with VA facilities regarding mental health care, the experiences of veterans with non-VA facilities regarding mental health care, the preferences of veterans regarding available treatment for mental health issues and which methods the veterans believe to be most effective, the experience, if any, of veterans with respect to complementary and integrative health approaches, the prevalence of prescribing medication to veterans seeking treatment for mental health disorders through VA, and the outreach efforts of VA regarding the availability of benefits and treatments for veterans for addressing mental health issues;
  3. examine available research on complementary and integrative health approaches for mental health disorders in areas of therapy including: Music therapy, equine therapy, training and caring for service dogs, yoga therapy, acupuncture therapy, meditation therapy, outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, art therapy, magnetic resonance therapy, and others;
  4. study the sufficiency of VA resources to deliver quality mental health care; and (5) study the current treatments and resources available within VA and assess: The effectiveness of such treatments and resources in decreasing the number of suicides per day by veterans, the number of veterans who have been diagnosed with mental health issues, the percentage of veterans who have completed VA counseling sessions, and the efforts of VA to expand complementary and integrative health treatments viable to the recovery of veterans with mental health issues as determined by the Secretary to improve the effectiveness of treatments offered by VA.

Any member of the public seeking additional information should email COVER The Designated Federal Officer for the Commission is Ms. Sheila B. Hickman. Ms. Hickman and the staff will be monitoring and responding to questions or comments sent to this email box. The Committee will also accept written comments which may be sent to the same email box. In the public's communications with the Committee, the writers must identify themselves and state the organizations, associations, or persons they represent.