Senator Hassan Also Pushes to Strengthen Support for New Hampshire Veterans’ Mental Health Care
WASHINGTON – At a U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough discussed his support for Senator Hassan’s bipartisan bill to strengthen the Solid Start program, and how the VA uses this program to better serve veterans. Senator Hassan also pressed the Secretary on the need to strengthen mental health care services for veterans in New Hampshire and across the country.
During the hearing, Senator Hassan asked Secretary McDonough if he supports her bipartisan bill to strengthen the Solid Start program, which the Senate recently passed. The Solid Start program was created by the VA during the previous administration to contact every veteran three times by phone in the first year after they leave active duty service to check in and help connect them to VA programs and benefits.
On whether he supports her bill to strengthen the program and make it permanent, Secretary McDonough said, “We support your bill, yes.”
Senator Hassan also asked the Secretary if the VA uses feedback that it gathers through the Solid Start program to better allocate resources and provide newly separated veterans with timely health care.
“It gives us an opportunity to get a relationship with those vets, and obviously the feedback loop for us is we identify where vets are and therefore where we need additional resources to provide care,” Secretary McDonough said. “And most importantly, it gives vets a better understanding of what’s available to them.”
Senator Hassan also highlighted the need to strengthen mental health services for veterans in New Hampshire.
“Many veterans suffer from mental health crises, and the VA needs to provide appropriate and time sensitive care,” said Senator Hassan. “According to the VA’s website, the current wait time for a new patient to get a mental health appointment at the VA Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire is 22 days. This delay in accessing care can put veterans at unnecessary risk, and discourage them from seeking help in the future.”
In response, Secretary McDonough committed to doing a better job on reducing those wait times. He also encouraged veterans who are in an emergency mental health situations to call the 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s Veterans Crisis Line, which Senator Hassan helped set up by cosponsoring the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act that is now law.
“Every veteran I talk to in New Hampshire—this is their number one concern for themselves and/or for their peers,” also added Senator Hassan.