Veterans Day Special Report: Healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and What The VA Is Doing Today

Veterans Day Special Report: Healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and What The VA Is Doing Today
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MSN.com reports: Jobs, Homes, and Health: An Update From the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs One million new veterans will apply for services provided by the VA (the Department of Veteran Affairs) over the next five years. Congressman Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has been working to improve services and conditions for veterans . Here he gives us his unique perspective on what’s being done and how we can do better. Q: What’s the most pressing issue facing the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs? A: It’s the job of my committee to help ready the VA for these returning heroes. That includes updating the antiquated disability claims process—900,000 claims are backlogged right now. And also working more closely with the Department of Defense to smooth transitions. But I think our top issue is veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. The VA has been behind the curve on these issues. We have to think outside the box when it comes to healthcare related to issues of mental health. Currently, we have a shortage of over 1,500 mental health providers. One solution might be for vets to be referred to the local Tricare provider near their home. The care would still be overseen and paid for by VA. But it would be more timely, compared to the current wait of 50 to 60 days. MORE: Find Veterans Service Organizations Q: On a related note, veteran suicides are up. What do you think is the number one thing the VA can do to help. A: Eighteen serviceman suicides a day is unacceptable by any measure. I will say that if a veteran calls and expresses suicidal tendencies, he or she is seen immediately. Unfortunately, too often the VA simply offers a medical prescription, and doesn’t provide follow-up of any kind. But prescription medicines only mask the symptoms. MORE: Veterans Crisis Line and Mental Health Services These are real injuries. These vets need continuous care with a healthcare provider. The challenge is we’re already operating in a stretched environment. There’s no easy answer, but my committee is committed to exploring new solutions over the coming period. Q: Tell us about the home loan program. A: That’s an extremely popular program. Rates are currently very low, and veterans are able to purchase homes with no down payment. There are also a variety of mortgage refinance options, payment assistance programs, VA-acquired properties for sale, and information portals. We’re doing all we can so vets have a home to return to. Q: Employment is on everyone’s mind, is there a vets employment program that you’re particularly proud of? A: The Hire Heroes Act of 2011 has been a great piece of legislation. The central provision is veteran re-employment training. One hundred thousand veterans can apply for up to a year of free retraining or learn new skills for today’s in-demand jobs via the Montgomery GI Bill. This Act serves unemployed veterans aged 35 to 60, which accounts for fully two-thirds of all unemployed. Overall, I’m proud to say we’re seeing unemployment levels drop for veterans for the first time in a long while, in some instances below the national level. Q: Finally, what would you tell an employer considering whether or not to hire a veteran? A: I hear people say that the skills that service members developed in Iraq or Afghanistan aren’t skills they can use in the U.S. today. I heartily disagree. Hard work, decision-making, and responsibility are things that all employers are looking for! Veterans have these for sure. They can be trained to do almost any job. Specifically, I want to work more with state governors to encourage them to recognize the skills that veterans possess as they return from active duty. For certain jobs, licensing is done at the state or local level. Encouraging state licensing boards to accept the experience that vets gained in the military—say as a combat medic—will go a long way to getting that vet back to work quicker than having to repeat lessons they already learned in the field. MORE: • Find Veterans’ Resources • Contact the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
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