Kennedy: Obama should ‘pay more than lip service to veterans’

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) is challenging President Obama’s handling of veterans and their mental health struggles.

“Frankly, we’re coming up on Veterans Day and the president of the United States ought to pay more than lip service to veterans,” he said on MSNBC’s “Weekends with Alex Witt” last Saturday.

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“Half of veterans are going to be covered by their employer-sponsored healthcare, which means that if the president wants to stand with veterans who are suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, he needs to ensure that the private insurance companies out there actually cover traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress,” Kennedy added.

“That’s the best way on this Veterans Day for this president to stand with veterans,” he said. "We have the authority to enforce this.”

Kennedy then argued that Obama must force Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mary Mathews BurwellWhy Trump will win the wall fight Price was a disaster for HHS — Time for an administrator, not an ideologue Overnight Healthcare: GOP chairman to introduce pre-existing condition bill MORE into improving addiction and mental healthcare services for both military personnel and civilians.

“Right now, Secretary Burwell is reneging on her job,” he said. "We lose over 40,000 Americans to suicide and 40,000 to drug overdoses each year with millions more who are suffering.

“Frankly, President Obama has it within his authority to require Secretary Burwell to demand of all the major insurers that they disclose how they do utilization management services, which is at the essence of how they deny care to someone facing addiction and mental illness,” Kennedy said.

“Our insurance system continues to discriminate when it comes to covering treatment for addiction and mental illness,” he added. "It’s time that the Congress, the president and all the presidential candidates have a plan to deal with this public health epidemic.”

Kennedy, who is a recovering drug and alcohol addict, additionally charged that everyday Americans with those conditions must discuss their struggles  more openly.

“All of us have an obligation to break the silence around these issues,” he said. "When you don’t talk about them, it is likely people won’t get treatment.”