WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, chaired a joint hearing yesterday with Representative Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, on the legislative priorities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). VFW Commander-in-Chief George Lisicki testified about VFW's concerns regarding overall funding for VA health care programs, accessibility of care to all veterans, and specifically about enhancing VA's capacity to furnish mental health care.
VFW leadership engaged in dialogue with Chairman Akaka and other members of the House and Senate committees on the need for improvements to mental health care access and services. They discussed how new approaches must be taken to address the needs of both newer and older veterans, and to prevent suicide among veterans.
"Now more than ever, with ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, VA must make mental health care a priority, and deal with the stigma and symptoms associated with the invisible wounds of war," Akaka said. "Our veterans deserve innovative mental health care that helps them return to full and productive lives." Akaka has emphasized VA mental health care for returning warriors throughout his Chairmanship.
Chairman Akaka continues to garner support for S. 2162, the proposed "Mental Health Improvements Act," a bill to help veterans and their families as they grapple with the impact of the invisible wounds of war. S. 2162, ordered reported by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee late last year, would improve services for veterans experiencing both mental health and substance use disorders, and would expand research programs on these disorders. The bill would also improve services for veteran's families, and would expand peer outreach and access to mental health services.
The full witness list and the Chairman's opening statement can be viewed here.
March 5, 2008