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Opening Statement of Hon. Michael H. Michaud, Ranking Democratic Member, Subcommittee on Health

I would like to thank everyone for attending today’s hearing.  This hearing is intended to open up the broader thought process and better understand how the VA and community organizations collaborate to support veterans and their families.

More than 2 million service members have been deployed since September 2001, with hundreds of thousands of them being deployed more than once.  As of February 2012, more than 6,000 troops have been killed and over 47,000 have been wounded in action in the recent conflicts.   

When these service members come home and take off the uniform, many of them have the expectation that life will just pick up where it left off before being deployed.  However, this is just not the case. 

Many of them struggle to reconnect with their families and communities.  They find themselves feeling isolated and unable to cope.  The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that half of the OEF/OIF/OND population that has accessed VA health care sought mental health treatment.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is the number one reported mental health concern among this population.  With so many OEF/OIF/OND service members and veterans experiencing psychological wounds, reports suggest that there is an increase in the rates of suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, and domestic violence. 

For this reason, it is essential that our service members, veterans, and their families receive the help they need and that they have the necessary tools to rejoin their communities.  These tools, programs, and resources would not be possible without the thousands of community organizations across the country that work in partnership with the VA.

At this hearing, I want to hear more about the reintegration challenges that service members and veterans face, as well as the challenges the VA and community organizations face in providing support services. And we need to identify potential solutions to these barriers and how we can strengthen these partnerships.

Despite historic increases in VA funding over the past five years, as the nation prepares for the influx of returning veterans, reintegration efforts are simply not possible without collaboration between the federal government, business sector, and nonprofit organizations. And more needs to be done to facilitate these partnerships.   

I would like to take the time to thank our panelists for being here with us this afternoon and for the work that you do every day to support our Nation’s veterans.  I would especially like to thank Mr. Morris and Mr. McCoy for their service as Chaplains in the Minnesota National Guard and at VA’s National Chaplain Center, respectively.

In 2009, I lead a Congressional delegation to Afghanistan and came to learn that our service members rely immensely on their chaplains for emotional support.  And on every visit since, I’ve come to respect the unique insights that our chaplains possess in terms of mental health, spiritual guidance, and the overall well being of our service men and women.

I look forward to hearing from all of our distinguished guests today.  Thank you, Madam Chair, and I yield back.