Veteran care is a topic very familiar to Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Along with United States Senator Patty Murray, United States Representative for the 5th District of Washington State has made health care for those who have served in the military a focal point of her campaigns and career in Congress. , with special attention to veterans in eastern Washington.
This includes a long history of keeping tabs on what the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center in Walla Walla is doing to fulfill its mission.
Earlier this month, McMorris Rodgers hosted a panel discussion with veterans from across the region in Spokane. And as a senior Republican on the Federal Energy and Trade Committee – which has jurisdiction over some of the issues surrounding mental health care across the country – she participated in a discussion on women’s mental health and suicide. last week, according to his staff.
During the current session of Congress, McMorris Rodgers helped develop several pieces of legislation addressing the continuing rise in suicide deaths in the veteran population.
These include the following:
- The Veterans Support and Awareness Commitment Act provides funding to ensure that there is at least one Veterans Support Officer in every county across the country. These officers help veterans with a variety of issues, including obtaining physical and mental health care, as well as the benefits of IL.
- The PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program Act to require the VA to establish a grant program to support peer-to-peer mental health programs for veterans.
- Puppies Helping Members of the Injured Service, or PAWS, for Veterans Therapy Act, provide canine companions for veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as part of their treatment plan.
- The PAWS Act of 2021 establishes a grant program to fund organizations to provide therapy dogs, supplies, veterinary care, and more to the military and their therapy dogs.
Staff at McMorris Rodgers’ office in Washington, DC, said the congressman had received a number of complaints about the Walla Walla VA in the past five months regarding services and care. Most related to long wait times and the difficulty of making appointments.
The veterans affairs social worker for McMorris Rodgers has been told by a local VA representative that the medical center is not currently monitoring any concerns about delays in care. His office is awaiting an update on more specific mental health care, staff noted.
Kyle VonEnde, communications director for the congressman’s office in Washington, DC, said in an email that her boss is working to resolve ongoing issues within the federal VA.
Complaints filed at McMorris Rodgers’ offices in Spokane and Colville typically cite the same issues, VonEnde said, including veterans who don’t get prescriptions when needed or get it wrong. In one case, a veteran’s medication was delayed long enough for that person to withdraw.
In another situation, a veteran was supposed to be given two drugs and ended up taking 15 bad ones instead. Part of this is attributed to the confusion over the VA’s online patient portal system; the latest version is not only unknown but less functional than the previous one, VonEnde said.
Not only does this system create dangerous situations for patients, it punishes VA employees who struggle to provide excellent care, he said.
In March, McMorris Rodgers called for a review of the electronic health records system after more complaints came from veterans in eastern Washington, a request that was immediately accepted by the federal VA. At the end of June, the review revealed issues that now need to be addressed before this system is used at other AV sites.
The challenges big and small to receiving health care add to the additional mental health burden veterans can carry, experts say.
McMorris Rodgers sees it again and again.
“I keep hearing from veterans in eastern Washington who feel like they don’t matter or don’t have a voice. They are desperate and feel lonely. Some struggle with PTSD and other mental health battles. Others are grieved by the failure of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, ”she said.
“Still more are simply overcome by the burden of returning to civilian life. “
Veterans need the help they’ve earned, and it is America’s responsibility to provide that care, McMorris Rodgers said, adding that Congress must reaffirm its support and redouble its efforts to ensure the best care and benefits for those who have served their country.