I was only too happy to see a news report about the Department of Veterans Affairs decision to hire 1600 new mental health professionals and 300 clerical workers. I pray they can find enough psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses and social workers to fill the 1600 positions. Additionally, I am gratified they are also hiring 300 clerical workers to help relieve the massive backlog of cases of Veterans seeking care.
As many of you know, in 2010, I walked from Texas to Washington to bring awareness to PTSD and to speak to our lawmakers about getting better care for our troops suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries(TBI). Along the way I was sucesful in spreading the word to many patriotic citizens. When I got to DC, it was an entirely different ballgame. I spoke with several Congressmen, Senators or their aides. Most of the lawmakers or aides I spoke with told me the same thing, “we just don’t have any money for additional mental health care workers”. Dennis Kucinich, a Congressman from the Cleveland, Ohio District, was the only one who did anything to recognize my efforts and entered into the Congressional Record, a speech about me and a plea for more and better care for our returning troops.
Now, in an interview I saw on PBS Thursday evening, the VA has been forced by a Federal Appeals Court to take steps to improve the mental health care given to Veterans. The PTSD problem will be dicussed by the Inspector General and a Senate hearing. It seems to me that what I heard in Washington does not coincide with what I heard on the PBS report. Spokeswoman Sonja Batten said 7000 Mental Health Professionals have been hired in the last seven years and 1600 more are going to be added this year, along with the 300 clerical workers. She also said, I believe, the money has been there all along. It appears strange to me that in an election year, we suddenly have the resources to hire more mental health professionals. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m grateful that finally something is being done to help our troops and Veterans. I am upset that politics has to enter into caring for our troops. It may be just a coinsidence that the push to get more mental health professionals comes during an election year. But personally, I don’t think it is a coincidence.
If I am elected to Congress, this is the kind of politicking I want to help change. I have seen reports of group meetings of Veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and now Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom for Vets who are still suffering from PTSD and other mental problems from their war. It is way past time to take better care of our war Veterans.
We, the 99% of Americans who are not now serving, owe our freedom to all our Veterans. They have fought died and been wounded to keep us free from agression and war here at home.