Ernst stresses need for better mental health care for veterans

Joni Ernst — Hearing — VA MentalFrom Press Release


Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) stressed the urgent need to address rampant problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) during a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing entitled, “Improving VA Accountability: Examining First-Hand Accounts of Department of Veterans Affairs Whistleblowers.”

The Iowa Senator asked about viable alternatives for veterans who do not feel they are receiving timely or adequate mental health care at their local VA, and questioned witnesses on whether they believed the VA takes seriously ideas for reform, implementation of Inspector General (IG) recommendations, or recommendations from staff to improve services for veterans.

During the hearing, Ernst emphasized: “This is an issue I am extremely passionate about and I think today’s hearing is just reemphasizing to me that we have a corrupt and broken VA system. And when I hear that supervisors, other workers, are more concerned about their own jobs than they are about the veterans – we have an issue. We have an issue, folks, that needs to be fixed and I don’t know how many hearings we’re gonna have until we get to actually addressing the situation. I hear a lot of talk but we need to figure this out.” While talking with the whistleblowers, Ernst also stressed the need to hold the VA’s feet to the fire.

Earlier this year, Senator Ernst introduced the Prioritizing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care Act. This legislation provides an option for veterans to receive immediate mental health treatment, until they can receive comprehensive treatment at the VA. It also prioritizes incentives to hire more mental health care professionals at the VA.

Scroll down to see video of Ernst’s speech.