Sunday, April 27, 2008

VA hasn't met veterans' mental health needs

Critics: VA hasn't met veterans' mental health needs

Veterans groups and members of Congress both have criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to keep up with war veterans' demands for mental health services.

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health chief, responds that "The expansion of mental health programs has been, frankly, phenomenal."

But Paul Sullivan, a former VA analyst, predicts a looming mental health crisis for at least 700,000 current and future veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the start, the VA -- like the Department of Defense -- vastly underestimated the number of troops that would return home from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health problems, said Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, of Washington, D.C.

"I had to go back in and prove that I was still an amputee," she said. "If two federal agencies won't accept information from each other, you can imagine the challenges as a state trying to come into a federal partnership."


The need for such services among National Guard members nationwide remains huge, with 49 percent of Guard members who served in Iraq reporting psychological problems -- a rate 29 percent higher than for regular soldiers.

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