Golden seeks $5 million to bolster VA’s mental health care
Hoping some of the money might find its way to Maine, 2nd District U.S. Rep. Jared Golden recently persuaded colleagues to back $5 million in additional funding for long-term mental care for veterans.
Ensuring mental health care for veterans is personal for Golden, a first-term Democrat from Lewiston who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in combat as a U.S. Marine.
The money sought by Golden is part of a $400 billion spending measure that passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is likely to wind up in the final version of the bill after the Senate takes action.
Golden said the spending he inserted represents little more than “decimal dust” in the multibillion-dollar package, but it will make a difference in the lives of some of the men and women who have served the country.
Golden, who served in the Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq, said it has long bothered him that Maine veterans who need inpatient mental health care have to travel to Veterans Administration facilities in Massachusetts because there are no long-term beds in Maine.
It is a problem, he said, in other rural states, as well. He said all of them ought to have at least a limited number of beds so veterans can get care closer to home from medical professionals they might be able to continue seeing once they are on the mend.
About a third of the more than 1.7 million military personnel who have served since 2001 in support of operations have some sort of PTSD, depression or traumatic brain injury, according to a study by the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research.
“Safeguarding the mental health of these service members and veterans is an important part of ensuring the future readiness of our military force and compensating and honoring those who have served our nation,” the RAND Corp.’s “Invisible Wounds of War” study said.
Golden said when he got out of the service in 2006 and returned to Maine, he had no idea what PTSD was.