Congressman Rudy Yakym (IN-02) testified at the House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ Member Day Hearing. At the hearing, Congressman Yakym spoke about the importance of fixing the VA so those who served our nation in uniform can receive the care and treatment they have earned. Additionally, Congressman Yakym shared the story of a veteran in Indiana’s Second District who was in crisis and who was not receiving the in-person, mental health care he needed from the VA.
Congressman Yakym’s testimony today also follows a letter he sent to the Northern Indiana VA last month inquiring about their mental health appointment wait times, staffing, and other information.
Congressman Yakym’s testimony as delivered is below and can also be viewed on the image above and here.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving those of us who are not members of the VA Committee the opportunity to present our priority issues. Veteran care transcends district and party lines. All of us want to ensure the best care for those that risk their lives to defend our freedoms.
“I’ve only been in Congress for a few months, but the large number of veterans in crisis is alarming.
“I hosted a veteran town hall in early May, and mental health was the most-discussed issue. Veterans said local VA mental healthcare was disorganized, short staffed, and plagued by long wait times.
“In the wake of these jarring reports, I sent an inquiry to the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, or VANIHCS, inquiring about their mental health appointment wait times, staffing, and other information.
“VANIHCS responded that it has 18 mental health-related vacancies. That’s far too many. I’d like to enter both my letter and the response from VANIHCS into the record.
“To put a face on this acute problem and the impact it has, I want to share the story of one of my constituents, Sergeant Ted Grubbs. Ted served honorably in the Indiana Army National Guard as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008 and 2009. After returning from duty, he was diagnosed with service-connected complex PTSD and complex TBI.
“On April 22nd, Ted experienced a severe mental health crisis. He was sitting on his couch and decided to put a pistol in his mouth. Thankfully, Ted put the pistol down but only after realizing it was the day before his daughter’s birthday. Ted did the right thing and reached out to a medic he served with.
“After this incident, everyone, including the VA, acknowledged that Ted required in-person appointments only. But the soonest the VA could get him an in-person appointment was June 26th – over two months later. That might as well be forever for a veteran in crisis.
“Today is June 22nd, so Ted wouldn’t have even had his VA appointment yet.
“Luckily, Ted found more immediate, in-person help with an outside specialist. But now, Ted’s fighting with the VA because they won’t reimburse him since they offered telehealth appointments. Ted feels that the VA failed him, and I can’t blame him.
“I hope that the Committee can drill down into this to understand where these shortfalls exist and why.
“All of Ted’s children have served in the armed forces with honor. Ted and his family represent the best of America, and we owe it to him and his children to fix VA mental health care. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify. I yield back.”
Click here to read the full testimony Congressman Yakym submitted for the Veterans Affairs’ Committee’s record.