Senator Richard Burr
July 14, 2011
Good morning, Madam Chairman, welcome to our witnesses. I particularly want to welcome Mr. Williams; Sgt. Sawyer and his wife Andrea.
Thank you for your willingness to share your experiences with us, many of which are no doubt painful to recount.
As Members of this Committee, it is important that we hear firsthand from veterans and their caregivers about their personal experiences in seeking mental health services through VA.
Back in May, the United States Court of Appeals for the Nineth Circuit issued a scathing decision addressing delays in providing VA mental health care to our nation’s veterans. While I do not intend to comment on the merits of that on-going litigation, I do believe it is worth our time to look into the issues raised in the case to ensure that veterans receive the care they deserve and have earned in a timely fashion.
As I have said before, early intervention offers the best hope for improvement and recovery from PTSD, depression, and substance abuse disorders.
Madam Chairman, it appears that early intervention continues to be a challenge within VA. According to the IG statement, even veterans who sought help and were accepted into the mental health program ended up waiting for the actual services.
This Committee has worked aggressively over the years, through oversight hearings such as this one, to improve health care and reduce barriers preventing veterans and servicemembers from seeking mental health services. For example, this is the third hearing in 4 years conducting oversight examining the gaps that exist in VA’s mental health care program. And yet, gauging from testimony we will hear from the first panel, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
It is troublesome to learn of the issues both Mr. Williams and Mr. Sawyer encountered in seeking care from VA. Both encountered problems in finding someone at VA to listen to what they needed and wanted from their treatment. Their experiences lead me to ask, where is the veteran in the Department of Veterans Affairs policies? How does VA’s policy include the veteran when putting together a treatment plan?
I look forward to hearing VA’s testimony. I am particularly interested in learning how VA is working to address the issues raised by our first panel and the recommendations made in the IG reports.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
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