Outdoor Therapy for Veterans Would Be Legally-Required Under This Bipartisan Bill

Veterans could see new legislation requiring outdoor recovery therapy, and that's an especially smart idea.

Sometimes, a smart piece of legislation makes so much damn sense, that it deserves unwavering support. We may have just seen the progression of one that, if passed into law, would require outdoor therapy as a part of a mental health and wellness plan for veterans.

The Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act and accompanying task force directives are a promising sign that lawmakers are doubling down on their efforts. Military veterans will see support with the great outdoors and our natural resources as the backdrop and setting, and the public lands that house those recreational opportunities will be vetted as to their positive impact on medical treatment and therapy.

If a plot of public land is proven worthy of helping give those who have served our country a second chance, it becomes that much more important in the eyes of Americans everywhere.

That's the sort of importance that won't cross party affiliations, state borders, or even picket lines. Support for land preservation and the mental well-being of our servicemen and women are no-brainers.

The bill was originally introduced as the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act, but has been reintroduced with the accompanying requests in both the House and the Senate for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs oversee the creation of an interagency task force. That task force will investigate the viability of a project that's tough to criticize from any angle.

"Studies have shown—and veterans organizations strongly concur—that outdoor recreational activities can provide powerful therapeutic and healing benefits as well as camaraderie for veterans struggling with combat-related injuries or post-traumatic stress," said Chris Smith, New Jersey state representative and author of the bill. "We should be thinking outside-the-box to discover as many ways as possible to help veterans, and opening up federal lands and removing barriers to access for remedial outdoor recreation is a no-brainer. My legislation would help increase access to this treatment option."

That's something we've shared encouragement for since day one, and something we know will pay off dividends if done correctly. The bill has the backing of several movers and shakers in the outdoor industry, the kind of groups that know the power of an outdoor adventure.

There are countless examples of fishing, hunting, and just being in the wilderness can promote a healthier lifestyle and mental condition. It helps in adjusting to civilian life, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, and learning that outdoor activities can be purely positive.

Some 20 million former United States service members will live and work among us over the next decade, and if those kind of impacts could be felt across all of them, there'd be a whole lot more people caring about the issues of public land and water access. Helping veterans heal and military families get the support they need can have a strong effect on their quality of life; it's as simple as that.

Wilderness therapy programs proved themselves long ago. Now, if the folks in Washington controlling the immensely large VA budget can see the light, we'll really be on to something.