Demand Change in the VA and Pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act
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It is estimated that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. This issue of veteran suicide is one that is often ignored by American society. But if there were 22 soldiers being killed daily in action overseas, there would be a public outcry.
Much of the blame rests on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA), which handles, or fails to adequately handle, a significant majority of U.S. veterans. Recently a number of scandals surrounding the VA have come to light. The VA has been accused of writing up secret lists of veterans who are currently being denied medical care for the sake of masking their high numbers of delays. A former clinic director has claimed that 40 veterans have died from being denied medical treatment at the VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. It can only be assumed that hundreds more have died nationwide as a result of the VA's disturbing practices. Although the VA requires patients receive care within 14-30 days of requesting an appointment, an incalculable number of veterans are being forced to wait months to have scheduled appointments with a doctor, regardless of the urgency of receiving care.
These are not the only allegations that have been surrounding the VA in recent months. The department has been accused of rewarding administrators with high bonuses for mismanaging the important task of providing our veterans with efficient health care. The inordinate bonuses the administrators receive for overseeing an increase in backlog claims or improper medical procedures and detestable malpractices all point to corruption in a system that is supposed to care for the veterans who have served our country. These recent allegations only add to the long history of the VA's practices in failing our veterans' health needs.
The mental health care branch of the administration should face particular scrutiny as well. Although symptoms of PTSD and other disorders may appear years after the veteran's deployment, he/she has only five years from his/her date of discharge to enroll in the VA's health care. The VA also does not have enough mental health care providers to address the growing needs of returning soldiers. This certainly does not help a soldier who needs medical health care for his mental disorders or has suicidal thoughts.
On May 28, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General released a report on the VA hospital in Phoenix and provided evidence of long waiting times for veterans to receive medical care, a lack of an official wait list, and several other cases of mismanagement, bullying, sexual harassment, and improper staff hiring decisions. To read the report visit http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-14-02603-178.pdf
We demand that the U.S. government in reviewing the VA administration does not go easy on a system that is directly hurting our soldiers who deserve more than this.
Thankfully, there is a solution in the works that will help lower the suicide rate among veterans and clean up the VA: The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act (H.R. 5059), introduced by Representatives Timothy Waltz and Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. This act, if passed, will have a variety of positive effects on the Department of Veterans Affairs that desperately needs dire improvement, such as:
-Amending the requirements for reviewing the discharge characterizations of individuals diagnosed with PTSD or TBI
-Requiring a centralized website of all the mental health care services available within each VISN which be updated at least every 90 days
-Authorizing the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists
-Requiring the DoD and National Gurad to review staffing requirements for Directors of Pyschological Health in each state
-Requiring a yearly evaluation, conducted by a third party, of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the DoD and VA
-Establishing a strategic relationship between the VA and the National Guard to facilitate a greater continuity of care between the National Guard and the VA
-Authorizing a GAO report on the transition of care for PTSD and TBI between the DoD and the VA
-Establishing a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members with accessing VA mental health care services
These changes, if implemented, will not fix all of the problems the VA is faced with solving. But Clay Hunt SAV is a big step in the right direction. Please sign this petition to do our part in protecting the soldiers who have honorably protected us.
*Note: this petition originally called for the passage of the Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (S. 2182)
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