WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, held a hearing today on the state of mental health care within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today's hearing follows recent findings that VA's top mental health official attempted to suppress suicide data, while a psychologist at the Temple Veterans Affairs Medical Center suggested that her coworkers avoid diagnosing veterans with PTSD, in order to save time and resources. Akaka called both individuals, along with other high-ranking VA officials, to testify before Congress.
"Recent incidents indicate a possible trend of system-wide or systemic indifference to the invisible wounds of war. It is shameful, because veterans deserve better, and because it tarnishes the good work of the many VA mental health professionals who help veterans battle PTSD, depression, and other psychological wounds," said Akaka. "Whatever the reasoning behind the mistakes that were made, VA must work to regain the confidence of veterans who now question whether VA is a friend or enemy."
In their testimony, witnesses denied any systemic or deliberate efforts within VA to deny veterans care or compensation for psychological wounds. While Dr. Norma Perez, the psychologist from Texas, argued that there is little difference between adjustment disorder and PTSD, VA's chief mental health official Dr. Ira Katz respectfully disagreed.
Chairman Akaka held today's hearing as a part of the Committee's broader effort to investigate the veterans' mental health system, especially care for PTSD and suicide prevention. Last month, Akaka requested additional data on veteran suicide and quality control at VA health care facilities. Following the disclosure of the Temple VA email, Akaka and other Committee members requested an Inspector General investigation of the incident and facility.
For Chairman Akaka's opening statement, click here.
For a full witness list, click here.