Tester: unseen wounds of war are real

In VA hearing, Senator highlights need to improve access to mental health care

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester today continued his push to ensure veterans have timely access to mental health care services at the VA.

During a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Tester asked veterans and veteran service providers about what Congress can do to address the ongoing challenges that veterans face when seeking mental health care at the VA.

“When service members return from war, we see their bravery and courage, we don’t see the memories that haunt them,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the VA Committee. “But these wounds are very real and we must do more to get our veterans the mental health care they need, so they can live healthy lives back home.”

During the hearing representatives from the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and other veterans told Tester that it is critical that the VA reduce the stigma associated with mental health that keeps veterans from seeking mental health care treatment at the VA.

Earlier this month, the VA endorsed Tester’s DOCS for Veterans Act, a bill that will help the VA recruit and retain more licensed mental health professionals.

Important Statistics from the VA

• The number of veterans who received mental health care from the VA has grown by 71 percent since 2005.

• In 2014 there were 19.6 million mental health visits at the VA.

• Approximately 13 percent of VA mental health positions remain unfilled in the United States.