Taking Action at Home
Our nation’s service men and women put everything on the line in defense of America’s freedom. It’s imperative that we keep political leaders informed of the challenges facing veterans and their families.
Since our founding 100 years ago, DAV has been responsible for the promotion of meaningful, reasonable and responsible public policy for wartime service-disabled veterans, their dependents and survivors. It has been an integral part of who we are and what we do from the start.
Because of you, we can help veterans exposed to toxic substances receive the critical benefits they need, enhance veterans’ access to mental health care, and improve benefits services for women veterans.
Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances
Veterans experiencing breathing and other health issues after being exposed to toxins from Agent Orange, burn pits and more face significant obstacles when filing disability claims. Providing proof of exposure can be difficult due to insufficient documentation of a veteran’s exposure. Furthermore, a connection between exposure and illness must be established by a medical professional, who may be unaware of toxins that were emitted.
More research is needed to establish a direct connection between toxic substance exposure and illnesses, but we cannot wait for results. Veterans exposed to toxic substances need benefits and care for their health issues now.
We must urge Congress to enact legislation that removes requirements for veterans to prove their exposure to toxic substances, allows veterans to document their exposure in registries and provides funding for research to establish links between exposure and illness. We are also urging Congress to enact an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which will add hypothyroidism, bladder cancer and Parkinsonism as presumptive service-connected diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.
Enhance Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care
A strong foundation for effective suicide prevention is timely access to high-quality mental health care for all veterans. But, inadequate staffing and increased demand for mental health treatment threatens the VA’s ability to provide timely, high-quality mental health care.
All veterans, including those in rural and remote areas, deserve preventative mental health services as a part of their primary care. Without better implementation of mental health services, reducing suicide among veterans will remain a problem.
We must demand Congress to provide ample resources for VA’s specialized mental health programs so veterans can access evidence-based treatments and therapies for post-traumatic stress (PTSD), depression and anxiety, substance abuse and more. Programs and services should emphasize early intervention and routine screening for all post-deployed veterans, especially those identified as most at risk.
There are several pieces of important legislation to address these issues pending in the House and Senate, including S. 785, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019. DAV is keeping the pressure on Congress to pass this bill and other critical legislation to improve veterans’ access to mental health care.
Improve Benefits Services for Women Veterans
More women are serving in the U.S. military now than ever before, increasing their risk for service-related injuries and disabilities. Yet, the very system women veterans rely on for benefits and care is unwelcoming and ill-equipped to handle their unique needs.
Serious gaps in health care, housing and other community services lead to higher rates of homelessness, suicide and — alarmingly — harassment at VA facilities among women veterans. A rapid increase in the number of women veterans seeking VA medical care has resulted in challenges in providing timely, gender-specific primary care. These challenges are further compounded by a shortage of primary care providers with expertise in women’s health.
Thankfully, last November, the House passed the Deborah Sampson Act, a bill that addresses the inequities women veterans face and encompasses many recommendations from DAV’s special women’s report, The Journey Ahead. Now, we must keep the pressure on the Senate to pass this legislation so all federal programs meet the needs of women veterans, and equal in effectiveness when compared to the services provided to male veterans.