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Kirkpatrick’s Hearing Examines Veterans’ Access to Care
TUCSON – U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick hosted a congressional field hearing in Tucson to explore the challenges facing veterans who need treatment for traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, joined Kirkpatrick, the panel’s ranking member, to conduct the hearing. Also attending was Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

The field hearing comes amid troubling reports of deaths in the Phoenix VA system possibly due to delayed care. Kirkpatrick has called for hearings to be held on the Phoenix situation after the Inspector General completes an investigation. Today’s hearing, held at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care facility, focused on access to care and included testimony from Arizona veterans, local veteran service organizations and VA medical officials (full witness list further below).

Derek Duplisea, an Iraq War veteran from Tucson who works with the Wounded Warrior Project, testified, “For warriors whose training is to ‘soldier on’ and ‘tough it out,’ asking for help – especially for mental health care – is a long-delayed last step. Understandably, warriors who are at the end of their rope and finally seek help at a VA medical facility often experience deep frustration and even despair if they are told to wait six weeks or longer to begin therapy.”

Another veteran, John Davison of Flagstaff, offered emotional testimony about the recent suicide of his son, Lance, a U.S. Marine who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lance suffered from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, which his father called a “a critical health problem for Lance, his family and friends. We all shared his suffering… Solutions, answers and understanding did not come easy for any one of us.”

After the hearing, the Arizona congresswomen provided the following statements:

Kirkpatrick: “Delayed care is denied care, and we need to take action if lengthy wait times in the VA system are preventing veterans from getting help they urgently need. I called for today’s hearing because ensuring access to quality care for our veterans is one of my top priorities. It’s my job to fight for those who have served.”

Sinema: “Too many returning veterans are not getting the support and care they need. No veteran should feel they have no place to turn, and no family should lose their loved one after he or she returns home. We have to work together as a community and as a country to end this tragedy. Thank you, Chairman Coffman and Ranking Member Kirkpatrick, for holding this hearing and for your leadership.”

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