Mar 27,2014 | WASHINGTON – At a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Senator John Hoeven pressed Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki and VA Under Secretary for Health Robert A. Petzel to allow veterans in western North Dakota to access health care services in the local community when available. Currently, the VA offers services in the western part of the state through local outpatient community clinics in Williston, Minot and Dickinson, but veterans are compelled to travel to the Fargo VA facility for some services that are not offered by the VA clinics but that could be performed by local health care providers.
“We’re asking the VA to come up with a plan enabling veterans to get more services at local clinics and hospitals in western North Dakota rather than drive to Fargo for routine tests like MRIs and CT Scans or chemotherapy,” Hoeven said. “We have the hospitals and health care providers in the community, but we need the VA to come up with a plan so that our veterans aren’t facing an 800-mile roundtrip drive to Fargo for a service that could be performed nearby.”
Hoeven further highlighted the need for enabling veterans to access services locally by pointing to reports from the Veterans Service Officer for Williams County. They say veterans have incurred accidents and died while travelling to or from Fargo or Bismarck to access health care services. The senator invited Secretary Shinseki and Under Secretary Petzel to visit Williston and asked them to develop and deliver to him a plan to enable veterans in western North Dakota to access available services from local providers.
Senator Hoeven also requested that Secretary Shinseki provide an update on the VA’s progress in addressing suicide prevention and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), asking specifically whether the VA has adequate resources to address these issues. As a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Hoeven is working to secure resources to make sure our veterans have good facilities and quality medical care, including good mental health services and funding for suicide prevention and the treatment of PTSD.
Additionally, the senator cosponsored the resolution that designated the month of June 2013, as “National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Month” to educate service members, their families and the public about PTSD. Since assuming office, Hoeven has cosponsored PTSD awareness measures each year, a tradition started by Senator Kent Conrad in honor of Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, a North Dakotan Army National Guard member who suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour of duty in Iraq.