Today, Wisconsin Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, Congressman Dave Obey and Congresswoman Gwen Moore hailed the Department of Veteran Affairs' (VA) actions to enhance efforts to help veterans in Wisconsin. The VA announced that it will open a new Vet Center site in Wausau, Wisconsin, as well as add additional counselors at the Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay Vet Centers to help process cases and expedite assistance to veterans. In an April 28 letter, the Wisconsin lawmakers urged the VA to open a Vet Center in north central Wisconsin to help serve the tens of thousands of veterans who do not live near a facility, as well as increase assistance in Milwaukee.
"I am very pleased that tens of thousands of veterans and their families in north central Wisconsin will have access to the critical services and support they need when this Vet Center site opens in Wausau. I am also glad to see this additional support for veterans in Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay," Senator Feingold said. "Members of the Armed Forces, as well as their families, are under incredible strain, and it is vitally important that we provide support to veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. These centers help veterans deal with mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder, which veterans are struggling with at alarming rates. Through outreach and counseling, Vet Centers help ensure our veterans are getting the health care and benefits they need in order to readjust to civilian life."
"Veterans in Wisconsin deserve easy access to quality mental health services," Senator Kohl said. "Vet centers throughout Wisconsin help veterans deal with various mental health issues that many soldiers face when returning from combat, including post traumatic stress disorder. The opening of a site in Wausau will help veterans in northern Wisconsin receive the help and treatment they need and deserve."
"This is good news for North central Wisconsin which was sorely lacking these resources. Considering that 41 percent of veterans live in rural areas, we've got to ensure that returning soldiers have access to the support services they need. We owe it to every single veteran to address not only their physical wounds, but also the mental and emotional consequences of war," said Congressman Obey.
Congresswoman Moore said, "This is great news -- increased access means that more vets can get the treatment they deserve."
Vet Centers provide counseling in a non-medical setting to complement the services provided in VA medical centers and outpatient clinics. They are critical to helping service members deal with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health and readjustment issues. Wisconsin has a disproportionately low number of Vet Centers compared to other states like West Virginia or Hawaii that have a smaller veteran population than Wisconsin, but have nine and seven Vet Centers respectively compared to Wisconsin's four. Currently, Wisconsin has three Vet Centers that are located in Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay. An additional center in La Crosse county, which Feingold, Kohl, Obey and Moore requested, is expected to open later this year. With an additional site in Wausau, roughly 90 percent of Wisconsin veterans will reside within an hour's drive of a Vet Center.