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Witness Testimony of Hon. Diane E. Watson, a Representative in Congress from the State of California

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding today’s hearing, and letting me speak about my bill, H.R. 1853—The Jose Medina Veterans Affairs Police Training Act.  I believe this legislation is vital to protect our heroes who have sacrificed their minds and bodies to protect our freedoms.

Mr. Chairman, too many veterans are suffering from mental health problems after returning from combat, and they are not receiving the proper treatment they deserve.  Congress has a responsibility to provide quality healthcare for our veterans.  We must analyze every aspect of services associated with the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, for our vets.

I have introduced H.R. 1853—The Jose Medina Veterans Affairs Police Training Act, a bill that would force the Department of Veterans Affairs to better prepare its police force to interact with patients and visitors at VA medical facilities who suffer from mental illnesses.

Jose Medina is a constituent of mine.  He is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from PTSD.  In January 2006, Mr. Medina was assaulted by two West Los Angeles VA police officers who kicked him and forced him to the ground after he isolated himself and fell asleep in a hallway at a VA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

After a physical altercation ensued, this fifty-six year old veteran was forced to lay face down on a hospital floor.  The officers injured Mr. Medina, and after the altercation they did not allow him to use the hospital’s emergency room.  Instead, the officers handcuffed him and detained him for an hour, before sending him home with a loitering ticket. This is not the way we should be treating veterans who have served and protected this country.

What bothers me the most is that when you see someone sitting on a hospital floor, one would think law enforcement and hospital staff would ask the individual if they were all right, or in need of assistance.  Instead, in this case, Mr. Medina was mistreated.  This is happening to too many of our brave veterans.

As we look to the future, thousands of veterans will be entering the VA healthcare system.  We must ensure that the VA has the ability to administer quality healthcare services to veterans that suffer from mental illnesses. With over 20 percent of the one and a half million veterans that served in Iraq or Afghanistan showing signs of PTSD, we do not want any of them to endure what Mr. Medina had to endure.

Mr. Chairman, the Veterans Administration believes this legislation is unnecessary, but the story of Jose Medina and other veterans from around the country who have contacted my office with similar problems has proven to me that this training is indeed necessary.  As Congress debates funding strategies and timelines for our military missions, we must not forget that not only do we need our vets to have the resources for the battlefield; they must also be treated with dignity and respect once they resume their lives after combat.  We must ensure that this happens!

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to address your committee, and I urge the members of the committee to support H.R. 1853.