Congress: Question 5 – Veterans' Services
U.S. Congress hopefuls answer a question about veterans' services.
As a way to inform our readers about the candidates, Patch asked the four candidates for the Congress in the Fifth Congressional District five questions that focused on topics ranging from education to war and from the economy to veterans' services.
Here is Question 5:
With the problems of medical and mental health issues coming into the spotlight for our veterans, especially those recently returning from Iraq, what legislation do you envision to ease their burdens? What support will the government give them?
Dale Brown (I)
There are veteran support programs in place to help our returning veterans. I would ensure that these programs are regularly monitored and updated. Anytime our government sends our military into such situations, it is obligated to provide the support required to deal with any physical, mental, or emotional problems that might result.
Bob Clark (I)
I believe we need to step up efforts in diagnosis and outreach programs. Too often these afflictions are not treated, which is detrimental to the quality of life for many people. Of course prevention is the best cure, see [Question 1].
Jon Golnik (R)
I believe we have to work on the transitional services for when our men and women returning from current deployments. These are our nation's bravest and their health and well being upon return is of critical concern. That is why I also supported HR 1377, which allows for veterans on the VA health plan, to be able to go to any hospital for mental or physical emergency treatment, rather than having to travel long distances.
Niki Tsongas (D), incumbent
Recent studies have shown that nearly 300,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have exhibited signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other serious forms depression. The fact that only about half of these veterans have sought care for their conditions exposes a glaring need to reach those additional veterans who may be affected.
To address the sharp increase in PTSD and other mental health wounds among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, I introduced two bipartisan bills. I introduced the first bill shortly after the new GI Bill was signed into law to aid the detection of PTSD among our newest generation of veterans. My bill would create a pilot program to train counselors at higher education facilities on how to effectively identify and address service-related stressors unique to our veterans that may manifest after separation from the military.
We must also ensure that veterans have access to mental health care professionals whenever necessary. I introduced a second bill that requires the VA to provide quarterly reports to Congress on the number of vacancies for mental health professionals at VA facilities, so that we can effectively evaluate and address any shortages of these critically important providers.
When PTSD is appropriately recognized and diagnosed, veterans can be effectively treated through therapy, medication and expert care. The key is that those involved in the lives of our veterans are able to recognize these seemingly invisible scars.