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Senators Hassan, Ernst, and Colleagues Call on VA to Connect Veterans to Mental Health Services in the Wake of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) led a bipartisan group of Senators including Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect veterans, who might be disturbed by images of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with mental health services.

 

“We write following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect veterans, including those experiencing posttraumatic stress, to mental health resources,” wrote the Senators. “As you know, images of the invasion of Ukraine have been widespread in the news and on social media. As veterans who have been exposed to life-threatening and dangerous experiences view these images, it is critical that the VA ensure they receive the appropriate support.”

 

“Images depicted in the media have the potential to impact all veterans, but they may be particularly troubling for the estimated 11 - 20% of veterans who experience post-traumatic stress after serving in the Vietnam War, Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom,” the Senators continued. “It is imperative that the VA make every effort to reach these veterans and make certain they are aware of mental health services and supports as the war in Ukraine continues.”

 

This bipartisan effort is part of Senator Hassan’s commitment to strengthen support for veterans. After the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, Senators Hassan and Ernst led a bipartisan group of more than 30 Senators in calling on the VA to develop and conduct outreach to veterans of the Global War on Terrorism – especially those who served in Afghanistan – to provide them with mental health resources. Senator Hassan also helped secure key priorities for Granite State veterans in the bipartisan veterans package that was signed into law last year.

 

See the full text of the letter here and below.

 

Dear Secretary McDonough:

 

We write following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to encourage the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to quickly develop a comprehensive outreach plan to connect veterans, including those experiencing posttraumatic stress, to mental health resources. As you know, images of the invasion of Ukraine have been widespread in the news and on social media. As veterans who have been exposed to life-threatening and dangerous experiences view these images, it is critical that the VA ensure they receive the appropriate support.

 

Images depicted in the media have the potential to impact all veterans, but they may be particularly troubling for the estimated 11 - 20% of veterans who experience post-traumatic stress after serving in the Vietnam War, Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. It is imperative that the VA make every effort to reach these veterans and make certain they are aware of mental health services and supports as the war in Ukraine continues.

 

We appreciated the VA’s efforts to distribute information about mental health resources following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. As veterans once again observe images of violence, we urge the VA to conduct a more comprehensive outreach campaign to ensure veterans receive detailed information about supports available, including for PTSD, and are connected to community-based support systems.

 

Thank you for your attention to this important issue. We are committed to working with you and your Department to ensure veterans receive appropriate resources and we look forward to reviewing your prompt response.

 

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