October 20, 2020

Senator Hassan Meets with Veterans’ Advocates to Discuss How to Strengthen Support Amid Pandemic

NEW HAMPSHIRE – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan hosted a virtual roundtable yesterday to discuss the importance of strengthening support for New Hampshire veterans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


Senator Hassan is working to ensure that veterans have access to the support and resources that they need during this challenging time. After hearing from New Hampshire veterans who have experienced delays in receiving their benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Senator Hassan is urging the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), which maintains the records of millions of veterans, to speed up the processing of veterans’ records requests so that benefit claims can be adjudicated. The Senator also cosponsored bipartisan legislation, which is now law, to improve veterans’ access to mental health care in New Hampshire and across the country. Senator Hassan also urged the VA to strengthen New Hampshire veterans’ access to telehealth amid this unprecedented pandemic.


See below for coverage highlights:


Manchester Ink Link: Experts fear upcoming “mental health tsunami” for veterans during Hassan roundtable

By Andrew Sylvia

On Monday, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) assembled an assortment of local experts for a virtual roundtable on veterans’ issues in New Hampshire.


[…] According to Eric Golnick, a Navy veteran and CEO of Manchester-based VFR Healthcare, a healthcare organization catering exclusively to veterans, a “mental health tsunami” is looming over the horizon for veterans following the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Golnick stated that veterans find purpose during crisis situations such as the pandemic, but often lose that sense of purpose after the conclusion of a crisis.


Hassan also noted that Veterans Service Organization members have told her that there is still a stigma within the veteran community in seeking mental health assistance, one of the root causes in the epidemic of veteran suicides in the U.S.


[…] Another key is reassuring veterans that seeking mental health assistance will not impact their ability to hold jobs or security clearances needed for jobs.


However, Hassan and others on the panel say progress has been made in addressing those stigmas and the federal government has also made steps to help through legislation like the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, which was signed into law on Friday.


Another topic during the roundtable was the need to help veterans engage in entrepreneurship, as well as readjustment for veterans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.


Ultimately, Hassan noted that increased investment in assistance for veterans assists civilians both in terms of new techniques and discoveries that can be transferred into the general population as well as harnessing the energy of veterans who have a greater chance of becoming vital members of the civilian economy if they are provided with the tools.


“Most veterans don’t stop serving, they just find different ways to do it,” said Hassan.


The Caledonian Record: Veterans Facing COVID Isolation

By Paul Hayes


The coronavirus has taken a toll on mental health.


For many, social distance mandates and high unemployment rates have increased feelings of loneliness and depression.


That’s particularly worrisome for the military community, which already faced a suicide epidemic before COVID.


Approximately 20 veterans and active duty military commit suicide each day, a higher rate than the rest of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Veterans Administration.


“It’s a disease of isolation,” said Eric Golnick, CEO of Veteran & First Responder (VFR) Healthcare, during a roundtable with Sen. Maggie Hassan on Monday.


[…] “Teletherapy and telehealth have been part of our long-term strategy, especially in rural areas, but the pandemic precipitated that quickly,” he said. It has been well received by VFR clients. ”We’re seeing that veterans are not only enjoying it, they’re actually coming to therapy more often, which is so important.”


Meanwhile the VA Medical Clinic in Manchester reported that 45 percent of its clients have accessed care by telephone or video conference technology since March.


The biggest growth area has been video conference visits.


Last week Sen. Hassan called on the federal VA officials to strengthen New Hampshire veterans’ access to telehealth.


“For those that have used it they can’t get enough of it,” said Nancy Falleur, Chief of Telehealth for the Manchester VAMC.


[…] Two pieces of legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Hassan aimed at helping veterans have been signed into law.


The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act was signed into law this week.


The bipartisan legislation bolsters the Department of Veteran’s Affairs mental health workforce and increases rural access to VA care.


In addition The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act will designate 9-8-8 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support.


Last week Hassan also urged the National Personnel Records Center to safely speed up its processing of veterans records, so that veterans receive their VA benefits in a timely manner.


WMUR: Veterans groups say more support needed


PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Veterans support organizations spoke with U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan on Monday about what assistance is needed to help veterans deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Telehealth has been a lifeline for many veterans during the pandemic, and officials with the Veterans Administration said its use is growing.


[…] "We're going to have a mental health, what I would call, tsunami that's going to come, and just to be aware of that and try to address it, I think, is going to be very important, both at the state and the federal level," said Eric Golnick, CEO of Veterans & First Responder Healthcare.


[…]  Officials said a lot of veterans, National Guard members and frontline workers are busy helping other people through the pandemic. When the adrenaline finally settles down, help will be needed.