By TCCRI Staff. Feb. 24, 2020
Few issues manage to cross the political aisle and form alliances as much as those intended to assist veterans. The willingness to dedicate, and sometimes lay down, one’s life for love of country is the ultimate sacrifice and, thankfully, most Americans regard that sacrifice with the utmost respect. However, despite the fact that veteran-related issues have broad support, health and mental health services for veterans have drawn widespread coverage, largely due to a breakdown in ensuring veterans get the services they need. While both federal and state leaders are eager and genuine in their desires to help, exactly how best to help has come into greater question.
While the federal government has primary responsibility for the provision of veterans’ health care services, Texas has a proud history of honoring our veterans by helping them get the care and services they need. As such, the Texas Veterans’ Commission (TVC) plays a crucial role in supporting Texas veterans and working in coordination with the federal Veterans’ Administration (VA).
Part of the challenge with how best to assist veterans at the state level is that the federal government is solely responsible for the provision of health services. However, when the federal system fails to deliver needed care, as was the case with the VA system in 2014 and 2015, states are left with trying to determine how best to “wrap around” those gaps in federal services and help their veterans in need. After the issues with the VA came to light, the Texas Legislature and TVC took action by directing TVC to work with veterans in troubleshooting VA-related health care issues and setting up a grant program to train mental health providers and peer support workers on veteran mental health issues.
TCCRI fully supports the Sunset initiative in SB 601 (86R) to introduce annual priorities and evaluation measures for each of TVC’s programs and would encourage this committee to continually monitor the implementation of this bill to ensure that these measures are being put into place. TCCRI is also supportive of the Committee’s Interim Report recommendation to the 86th Legislature to pass a nonbinding resolution urging Congress and the VA to be fully transparent with veterans on the health care options available to them while continuing to expand freedom of choice for veterans, as well as its work to determine how to best connect individuals transitioning from active duty to veteran status with suicide prevention services.
The Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Border Security discussed these issues at its hearing today. To read TCCRI's full testimony to the Committee, click here.