Our Job Is Not Yet Done

The Washington Times Daily - - Life -

Vet­er­ans Day pro­vides us the op­por­tu­nity to stop and take a mo­ment to thank those who have served our na­tion as mem­bers of our Armed Ser­vices. Th­ese men and women, and their fam­i­lies, have made great sac­ri­fices to de­fend the United States and de­serve our ut­most grat­i­tude.

As Vice-Chair­man of the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, I have made it a pri­or­ity through­out my ten­ure in Congress to work with my col­leagues to en­sure the needs of our vet­er­ans are met. Ear­lier this year, leg­is­la­tion I spon­sored was signed into law that di­rected the VA to ob­tain and dis­trib­ute com­pre­hen­sive in­for­ma­tion about in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing, so our ser­vice mem­bers could make more in­formed de­ci­sions when they choose to use their Post-9/11 GI ben­e­fits. In ad­di­tion, the House re­cently passed the Vet­er­ans Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity Act to im­prove our ser­vice mem­bers’ ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tional and med­i­cal ben­e­fits, as well as pro­fes­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties. Congress is also work­ing with the VA to im­prove the pro­cess­ing of vet­er­ans’ dis­abil­ity claims to re­duce the back­log and en­sure claims are pro­cessed in a timely and ac­cu­rate man­ner. How­ever, there is more we can do to as­sist our ser­vice mem­bers, es­pe­cially when it in­volves the in­vis­i­ble wounds of our re­cent wars.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances have made it pos­si­ble for men and women to sur­vive in­juries on the bat­tle­field that would have pre­vi­ously been fatal. As our na­tion’s he­roes rein­te­grate into so­ci­ety, they are faced with phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial chal­lenges that have not been ad­dressed in years past. In­juries, such as Post-Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der and Trau­matic Brain In­jury, are some­times ig­nored or over­looked due to the stig­mas as­so­ci­ated with seek­ing treat­ment. There has also been a sharp rise in sui­cide rates among vet­er­ans as the war in Iraq has come to a close and the con­flict in Afghanistan winds down. While the VA has com­mit­ted to hir­ing more men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to meet the grow­ing need, we as a coun­try must also be there to sup­port our vet­er­ans.

Free, con­fi­den­tial coun­sel­ing with a trained VA staff mem­ber is only a phone call, text mes­sage or email away. One such re­source is the Vet­er­ans Cri­sis Line (1-800273-8255), which of­fers 24-hour sup­port for all vet­er­ans and ser­vice mem­bers, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Na­tional Guard and Re­serve. It is im­por­tant that we are not only aware of th­ese re­sources, but also en­cour­age our ser­vice mem­bers and vet­er­ans to uti­lize them, es­pe­cially in times of need.

We must also re­main com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing vet­er­ans re­ceive ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment for their ser­vice-con­nected in­juries. At a re­cent Con­gres­sional hear­ing, my col­leagues and I learned that the VA’s use of pre­scrip­tion opi­ates to treat pain has tripled since Septem­ber 11, 2001. We re­ceived tes­ti­mony from vet­er­ans who de­scribed their frus­tra­tions and dif­fi­cul­ties nav­i­gat­ing the VA health sys­tem in ef­forts to find relief from their pain. We also heard from wid­ows of vet­er­ans who had died due to over­doses as a re­sult of the num­ber of dif­fer­ent pre­scrip­tions they had re­ceived. Dr. Robert Jesse, Prin­ci­pal Deputy Un­der Sec­re­tary for Health at the Vet­er­ans Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion, promised the VA was com­mit­ted to right­ing their prac­tices, so oth­ers would not find them­selves in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions. I echo this prom­ise and will con­tinue to work to en­sure our vet­er­ans re­ceive the ap­pro­pri­ate care and treat­ment they de­serve.

Let us al­ways re­mem­ber the im­por­tance of re­main­ing vig­i­lant and sup­port­ing our he­roes upon their re­turn home. To­day and ev­ery day for­ward, take a mo­ment to thank those who have an­swered the call of duty and of­fer your sup­port in their times of need. It is up to all of us, as well as our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, to honor their sac­ri­fices, as well as the prin­ci­ples and free­doms they have pro­tected.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.