Representative Ann Kirkpatrick announced today that new U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs rules that took effect this week will significantly increase access to mental health treatment for Greater Arizona Veterans with service-connected Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The improved guidelines, which Rep. Kirkpatrick urged Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to put into place in a recent letter, would require that Veterans who seek PTSD treatment simply provide proof of active-duty service in a war zone and be diagnosed with the illness by a VA specialist. The change eliminates strict documentation requirements that have delayed and denied mental health benefits for thousands of our Nation's heroes.
"I am committed to helping Greater Arizona Veterans overcome bureaucratic obstacles and cut through the red tape in the VA's claims process," said Rep. Kirkpatrick. "These new guidelines will enable more of our fighting men and women to receive the vital services they have earned. This is a big step in my fight to make sure Washington keep its promises and ensure treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder is accessible to every District One Veteran who needs it."
The new rules will especially benefit Veterans from rural areas, who often have to travel vast distances to file claims, appeal VA rulings and receive treatment for service-connected illnesses. Rep. Kirkpatrick, a strong advocate for rural Veterans discussed ways to address their unique challenges with Sec. Shinseki last week, when she hosted him for a tour of a medical facility for Veterans near Flagstaff.
A member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the daughter and niece of Veterans, Rep. Kirkpatrick has been a leader on this issue in her first term in Congress. Last April, she co-sponsored legislation in the House that would similarly expand the definition of "combat with the enemy" for purposes of proving service connection for Veterans' disability compensation. She is continuing to work hard to ensure that Greater Arizona's heroes have access to the resources they need to thrive after their time in the military has ended. Veterans from District One who want to learn more about how they can use the VA's new provisions for PTSD treatment or who need help getting other service-related benefits can contact Rep. Kirkpatrick's Prescott office at (928) 445-3434.