WASHINGTON – This week during Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings, Senator Hassan highlighted priorities for Granite State veterans, including transporting veterans to their appointments at the VA, strengthening veterans’ mental health, and improving the infrastructure of the VA Medical Center in Manchester.
During a hearing that featured witnesses from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Senator Hassan discussed DAV’s volunteer medical transportation program to bring veterans to their VA health appointments.
“In New Hampshire, many veterans have to travel significant distances for their VA health care… and in many places, there is no public transportation available,” said Senator Hassan. “For disabled veterans, or those simply without a car, this is a huge barrier to care, and can lead to veterans missing appointments among other things. As a result many Granite State veterans turn to DAV’s dedicated network of volunteer drivers who drive them to their VA health care free of charge.”
Senator Hassan then asked Joseph Parsetich, National Commander of DAV about how the VA can better support DAV’s volunteer drivers.
“This country is not lacking in volunteers wanting to serve the veterans by volunteering driving, helping on different facilities,” said Mr. Parsetich. “But we find nationwide that the lack of communication between the [regional] director encouraging their voluntary services to get these applications processed in an expedient fashion, dragging out for three to six months or longer in many cases, is just unacceptable.”
Senator Hassan has directly worked on addressing the backlog for volunteer DAV driver applications in New Hampshire. Last year after pressure from Senator Hassan, acting on concerns raised by NH DAV, the Department of Veterans Affairs cleared the New Hampshire application backlog for volunteers who drive veterans to medical appointments. As follow up, Senator Hassan is leading a bipartisan push to address the backlog nationwide and make sure that it does not happen in New Hampshire in the future.
During today’s Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing with representatives from the American Legion, Senator Hassan asked about improving veterans’ mental health and the VA Medical Center in Manchester.
“Peer support programs encourage veterans to reach out and connect with one another proactively, which improves veterans’ mental health and helps prevent suicide,” said Senator Hassan. “The American Legion recognized the importance of these programs when it created the Buddy Check program in 2019. I was pleased to help expand this effort through the passage into law of the bipartisan Buddy Check Week Act, which calls on the VA to support and grow the program.”
Senator Hassan then asked witness Vincent J. Troiola, National Commander of the American Legion why peer-to-peer support programs are so effective at supporting veterans’ mental health.
In response, Mr. Troiola shared that camaraderie goes a long way for veterans struggling with mental health issues, and this program helps them by developing trusted relationships with another veterans.
Senator Hassan also highlighted how the VA Medical Center in Manchester is in need of repair: “The VA Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, is 73 years old and has had numerous maintenance failures over the past few years, including three separate water pipe breaks that resulted in canceled appointments for veterans. “
Last month, Senator Hassan called on the Secretary of the VA to prioritize long-term solutions for these problems and ultimately build a full-service hospital in New Hampshire.