Senate Committee Wants Investigation of VA Mental Health Services

Following testimony from Michelle Washington, the director of post-traumatic stress disorder services at the Wilmington, DE Veterans Affairs Regional Office, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs has called for an inquiry into the Veterans Administration’s health services system.

As reported by the Washington Post, Washington recently testified before the committee, saying that Veterans wishing to receive access to mental healthcare often receive cursory intake appointments followed by delays of up to six weeks.  Such scheduling faults are apparently the result of “clerks pressured by management to make the system look good.”

Such news is distressing in light of a recent report by the Center for New American Security, which shows an alarming spike in the number of suicides amongst Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 2006, VA has seen a subsequent increase in the number of Veterans seeking psychiatric treatment, with more than 1.2 million in 2010 alone.

Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-WA), who has asked the Office of the VA Inspector General to investigate the matter, said, “especially at a time when we are seeing record suicides among our veterans — we need to meet the veteran’s desire for care with the immediate assurance that it will be provided — and provided quickly.”

Washington testified as a member of the American Federation of Government Employees and says that her managers were slow to act, at times denying the problem “flat-out.”  Whatever the forthcoming investigation uncovers, it is clear that the VA must continue to make drastic changes to its staff and policy procedures to ensure that no Veteran seeking help goes untreated.

To learn more about the activities of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, click here.  The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs also maintains a website of its own.


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