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Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a Representative in Congress from the State of South Dakota

Thank you to everyone for being here.  I congratulate Chairman Filner and Ranking Member Buyer for holding today’s hearing to examine and identify mental health challenges within the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system and the problem of suicides among veterans.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to produce a new generation of veterans, it is important that Congress evaluate the impact of these conflicts on the mental well-being of returning servicemembers.  We must closely evaluate the ability of the VA to meet the mental health care demands placed upon it. 

While the VA offers a wide array of mental health programs, there continues to be room for improvement.  In particular, I believe we must do more to meet the mental health care needs of our rural veterans – who often must travel long distances to reach VA health care services. 

I am pleased that we have the opportunity to hear from today’s panelists and am grateful to have the opportunity to hear their suggestions and answers to the critical issues involved.   I look forward to hearing their testimonies.

Again, I want to thank everyone for taking the time to be here and discuss these important matters.