WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, held a hearing to assess the treatment of mental health needs in the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Today's hearing focused on the "invisible wounds" of war, specifically PTSD, substance abuse, military sexual trauma, and suicide. The Committee heard powerful and compelling testimony from witnesses with personal experience with these issues.
"The VA mental health care system has long suffered from significant funding cuts and waiting lines for care," Akaka said. "We owe our men and women in uniform timely treatment for wounds suffered fighting in our name. There is no question that the Bush Administration should have taken the necessary steps at the start of this war to ensure that VA was prepared for the growing demand for mental health care. Now, we must do what is necessary to make up for lost time. While there are indeed some excellent VA programs out there, they are not universally available to all veterans in need, and today's hearing is a first step in expanding those successful treatment programs nationwide."
The first panel included:
Tony Bailey, who testified about his son, Justin Bailey, who died on January 26th of this year from an overdose of prescription medication while receiving care at a VA facility. He joined the Marines in 1998 and was discharged in April 2004.
Randall Omvig, accompanied by his wife, Ellen Omvig, testified about his son, Joshua Omvig, who committed suicide one year after returning from serving 11 months in Iraq. He committed suicide shortly after he learned of the deaths of a number of his friends.
Patrick Campbell, of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, testified about the impact of PTSD. He is a combat medic serving with the Washington, D.C. National Guard. Mr. Campbell returned from Iraq in October 2005, after one year of service in Baghdad with the 256th Infantry Brigade. He has dealt with PTSD personally, and discussed a fellow servicemember's experience attempting to reintegrate into society after returning from combat.
Connie Best, Ph.D. at the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina; testified about the needs of veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma. Dr. Best is a retired Naval Reserve Captain who has spent more than 25 years treating victims of sexual assault.
The second panel included:
David Oslin, MD, Director, VISN 4, Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs
Jan Kemp, RN, PhD, Associate Director for Education, VISN 19, Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs
Patricia Resick, PhD, Director, Women's Division, National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Department of Veterans Affairs
Ralph Ibson, JD, Vice President for Government Relations, Mental Health America