Providing healthcare for our veterans plays a vital role in honoring our commitment to those who have served our nation. When I was elected to Congress, it became my top priority to put forth legislation to make sure our veterans get the care they have earned and deserve.
Joining the United States Army in 1974 was one of the most important decisions of my life. I served in the Army for twenty-four years; first active duty enlisted, then as nurse, reservist nurse and doctor and ultimately retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. As a veteran myself, I understand firsthand the obstacles our servicemembers face as they transition to civilian life.
Despite many shining successes, veterans’ healthcare systems have encountered various challenges, such as long wait times and staffing shortages, which makes it increasingly difficult to meet the growing demand for care, especially substance use disorder and mental health care. Outdated facilities and technology have further hampered the ability for our nation to deliver timely and efficient healthcare. It’s imperative that we ensure our treatment centers are equipped with the necessary tools and resources to make care for our veterans more efficient, effective, and accessible.
This congress, as the Chairwoman of the Health Subcommittee of House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I’ve worked tirelessly with my colleagues to take a comprehensive approach to addressing various shortfalls of the current system. I introduced the Veteran Care Improvement Act to increase transparency, improve timeliness of care, and establish access standards for substance abuse treatment. This Act also incentivizes critical partnerships between community providers and the VA, furthering the goal of making the VA health care system more accessible and accountable.
Another challenge we need to address amongst the veteran community is substance abuse. Unfortunately, we have seen a major increase in drug overdose mortality over the past decade in the general population and veterans. My subcommittee held an oversight hearing during which we heard directly from veterans with substance use disorder who experienced delays and struggled to get the care they needed. I was saddened and frustrated to learn how the VA has been managing care for those who have selflessly served our country.
Recently, the Health Subcommittee held a roundtable on emerging therapies, where we discussed psychedelic assisted therapies that have shown promising results for treating PTSD, depression, with and without suicidal ideation and substance abuse disorder. Given the mediocre success and significant number and type of adverse side effects with current prescription medications, the success rate in pilot studies with assisted therapy and breakthrough drugs (MDMA and psilocybin), it’s past time to revisit these breakthrough therapies. Moving forward, it is critical that we explore all treatment options while holding the VA accountable and allocating resources to ensure VA can uphold their commitments.
Much work still needs to be done to deliver higher standards of care to our veterans. I remain committed to addressing current challenges facing the system, and I look forward to hearing from experts about emerging breakthrough therapies that can help bring our veterans the care and successful treatment they deserve. By continually meeting the evolving needs of veterans, we can uphold our duty to those who have dedicated their lives to protect our freedom and security.