This morning at a hearing of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) heard testimony and demanded answers from government officials about lackluster and delayed mental health care treatment from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA).
The hearing was a result of continued reports of inadequate and delayed mental health care treatment from the VA. In one example, Daniel Williams, a former Army Ranger, was experiencing suicidal tendencies upon returning home from Iraq, and due in part to an insufficient response from local VA personnel, his distress spiraled into a complete mental breakdown.
Williams' severe post-traumatic stress culminated with him placing a loaded gun in his mouth. His life was saved only by the malfunctioning weapon. Even after this incident, the VA failed to provide the mental care sought by Williams.
"The Department of Veterans' Affairs must provide veterans suffering with the invisible and psychological wounds of war the tools to recuperate, adjust, and thrive when they return home," said Sen. Brown. "The VA has many valuable programs to further this goal, but has unfortunately not sufficiently provided our heroes the mental care they deserve. These complete breakdowns in communications between VA personnel and our heroes are absolutely unacceptable."
The first panel of today's hearing consisted of testimony from: Daniel Williams, Former Army Ranger; Andrea Sawyer, Caregiver and Spouse of U.S. Army Sgt. Lloyd Sawyer; John D. Daigh, Jr., M.D., Assistant Inspector General for Health Care, Office of Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs; and David Thomas Underriner, Chief Executive, Delivery System -- Oregon Region, Providence Health & Services.
The second panel was made up of: William Schoenhard, Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management, Veterans Health Administration, who was accompanied by: Dr. George Arana, Acting Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Clinical Operations & Management, Veterans Health Administration (VHA); Dr. Antonette Zeiss, Acting Deputy Chief Patient Care Services Officer for Mental Health; and Dr. Mary Schohn, Acting Director, Mental Health Operations.