News Releases

Murray Requests Hearing on VA Mental Health Services

Jun 16 2006

Senator calls on leadership of VA Committee to look into supply and demand of mental health care services

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) – a key member of the Senate Veterans Affairs (VA) Committee – today sent a letter to Senate VA Committee Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID) and Ranking Member Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), requesting a hearing of the Committee on the status of mental health services provided by the VA.



"We need real answers from the VA and the Bush Administration. No gimmicks. No games," Murray said. "I am requesting a hearing on the mental health services provided by the VA so we can learn more about the need for mental health care, how to meet that demand, and what changes need to be made to provide our veterans with the care they need and deserve."



Murray's call for a hearing follows an article in the May edition of Psychiatric News in which Frances Murphy, M.D., Undersecretary for Health Policy Coordination at the VA, indicates that the agency is ill-prepared to serve the mental health needs of our nation's veterans. In the article, Dr. Murphy notes that some VA clinics don't provide mental health or substance abuse care, or if they do, "waiting lists render that care virtually inaccessible."



"With an estimated one third of the 1.3 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan facing mental health challenges upon their return, I am concerned that they are not getting the services they need," Murray wrote. "It is unacceptable that they are encountering VA waiting lists that render mental health care 'virtually inaccessible.'"



The full text of Senator Murray's letter to Sen. Craig and Akaka follows:





June 16, 2006



The Honorable Larry Craig
Chairman
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee
Senate Russell Office Building
Room 412
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Daniel Akaka
Ranking Member
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee
Senate Russell Office Building
Room 412
Washington, DC 20510



Dear Chairman Craig and Ranking Member Akaka:



I recently read an article in Psychiatric News that leads me to believe the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is unprepared to serve the mental health care needs of our nation’s veterans.



The article reads as follows:

“Frances Murphy, M.D., undersecretary for Health Policy Coordination at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), said the growing numbers of veterans seeking mental health care has put emphasis on areas in which improvement is needed. She noted that some VA clinics do not provide mental health or substance abuse care, or if they do, ‘waiting lists render that care virtually inaccessible.’”


As you know, access to mental health services is vital to America’s veterans. The VA must ensure that resources are available to them whether facing challenges from PTSD and depression or other ailments. If we fail to provide these men and women with the care they need, we will set our nation up for the future cost and complications of veterans struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and other conditions.



In addition, with an estimated one third of the 1.3 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan facing mental health challenges upon their return, I am concerned that they are not getting the services they need. It is unacceptable that they are encountering VA waiting lists that render mental health care “virtually inaccessible.”



I am requesting that the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hold a hearing on the status of mental health services provided by the VA. I believe the committee needs to learn more about the demand for mental health care, how the VA is meeting that demand, and what changes need to be made to rectify access problems within the current system.

I know you both share my concerns with the VA’s ability to care for the needs of our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and I look forward to working with you to ensure the VA is addressing the mental health needs of America’s veterans.



Thank you for taking my request into consideration.



Sincerely,



Patty Murray
United States Senator