More Needs to Be Done to Reach Veterans in Need (Rep. Bob Filner)

Bob Filner is Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

I do not believe that the VA has the tools it needs to support returning veterans. I believe that care is available and I believe that treatment works – but I know that much more must be done to reach the veterans that need help. We need to find those that need help but do not seek it. We need to educate those that are hurting but do not recognize it. We need to equip family members and communities across the country with information to help our heroes. Our veterans are returning with injuries that we cannot see. The VA needs to find the veteran, meet with the veteran and serve the veteran – the way that veteran served our country.

I understand that suicide can be a very difficult public health crisis to gauge. This hearing was an opportunity for the Department of Veterans Affairs to report to Congress what the agency needs in order to reach out to all veterans in order to provide for the mental health care needs of combat veterans. The lack of an urgent response from the VA at the hearing is very troubling to me.

The rate of veteran suicide has reached epidemic proportions. We need to be positioning ourselves now to provide the assistance that our veterans need; not only for those brave men and women who are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also for our veterans from previous conflicts. We know that the images of war trigger reactions in veterans from past conflicts. We need to go find Vietnam veterans and help them. We are not reaching the people that need the help.

Examining mental health care access and treatment for veterans will be a major focus of the Committee in the coming year. While we may be divided on the war, we must be united in seeing that every soldier, sailor, airman and marine is welcomed back with all the compassion this grateful nation can bestow.