Washington, D.C. -- Senate Democrats today rallied behind important legislation to protect our veterans. Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Daniel Akaka (D-HI) was joined in support of his legislation, S. 1177, the Veterans Mental Health Care Capacity Enhancement Act of 2005, by Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO). The senators were also joined by Joe Violante, Legislative Director of the Disabled American Veterans and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Donald Mooney, Assistant Director for Resource Development for the American Legion, and two veterans of the Iraq War, David Chasteen and Abbie Pickett.
Twenty to 30 percent of returning servicemembers will require mental health services -- and that is in addition to the already existing veteran population that depends on the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) expertise in treating mental illness today. Sadly, there are stigmas associated with those who seek help or report either of these issues. The VA and Department of Defense (DoD) have yet to come to the table together to work on ways to combat these problems. S. 1177, is designed to address these concerns and to ensure that when our soldiers return home from the war zone services are available to ease their transition back into society.
"Our focus is simple -- to make sure that VA is doing everything possible to guarantee that each and every veteran who needs mental health care -- whether in West Virginia or Hawaii -- is receiving that care. Instead of saying that the fiscal situation is bleak, we should be re-examining our priorities to ensure that our veterans get the care that they deserve and have earned," Senator Akaka said.