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Secretary Nicholson Defends Department Of Veterans Affairs Budget, Mental Health Services Management

June 14, 2017

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson on Thursday testified before the House Appropriations Committee about the VA budget and department management of mental health services, the Boston Globe reports. The hearing was the latest this week during which lawmakers questioned Nicholson about the case of Marine Pvt. Jonathan Schulze, an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide after VA placed him on a waiting list for mental health services. According to some lawmakers, the case "stands as a tragic example of how the federal government is underfunding the VA, which they believe is straining to provide for wounded veterans," and an indication that the fiscal year 2008 budget proposal released last week by President Bush does not include adequate funds for the department, the Globe reports. Nicholson this week at hearings told lawmakers that the $87 billion for VA included in the budget proposal would "fund our nation's commitment to America's veterans." However, at a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) listed several cases in which veterans did not receive necessary mental health services for post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects an estimated one out of five Iraq war veterans. She said, "When you have that many red flags going, you can't just arbitrarily say no one's being denied care, and I think we have to say there are red flags out there. We need to find out what's going on." Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, said, "It's a tragic situation," adding, "There are veterans out there struggling with PTSD who are not getting the help they need" (Sennott, Boston Globe, 2/16).

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