Tester Asks for Veterans Service Organization Feedback on Improving VA Mental Health Care

Senator Hears Legislative Priorities from NASDVA, FRA, Gold Star Wives, BVA, Jewish War Veterans, MOPH, MOAA

(U.S. Senate) – Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Jon Tester today asked some of the nation’s leading Veteran Service Organizations how the VA can reduce the rate of veteran suicide.

Tester asked the organizations, who represent hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country, what the VA should be doing to better deliver quality mental health care to veterans to help curb the high rate of veteran suicide.

“We all understand that mental health has been the signature issue for anyone coming home from war for the past 20 years,” said Tester. “In terms of the VA’s mental health and suicide prevention efforts, can you tell me where the VA is making the grade and where it’s missing the mark?”

“The area where we have some issues is with Vet Centers and staffing,” replied Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, President of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs. “The Vet Center is such an amazing system for veterans and families that the VA needs to fully staff those and I think they’re having some of the same issues regarding staffing.”

“I applaud the VA for the work they’ve done with the Veterans Crisis Center,” added Thomas Zampieri, President of the Blinded Veterans Association. “Ironically, though, the website isn’t accessible for blind veterans. It’s one of those things you just say to yourself, how could that happen?”

A consistent theme from the panel included issues of staffing VA facilities across the country and that a long hiring process often stands between veterans and access to quality providers who want to work for the VA.

The Veterans Service Organizations presenting their 2019 legislative priorities today include:

  • Ms. Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, Director, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs
  • Mr. Robert Washington, Sr., National President, Fleet Reserve Association
  • Mrs. Crystal Lynn Wenum, National President, Gold Star Wives of America
  • Dr. Thomas Zampieri, National President, Blinded Veterans Association
  • Dr. Barry J. Schneider, National Commander, Jewish War Veterans
  • Mr. Douglas J. Greenlaw, National Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart 
  • Ms. René A. Campos, Senior Director of Government Relations for Veterans-Wounded Warrior Care, Military Officers Association of America

Today’s hearing is the fifth and final join Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings to hear the legislative priorities of the nation’s leading Veterans Service Organizations. More information about today’s hearing can be found online HERE. More information about the other four hearings can be found online HERE.