Two veterans in Georgia died by suicide last month, one outside the entrance of the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and another in the parking lot of the VA Hospital in Dublin. The two incidences punctuated the struggles that have plagued the Georgia facilities in recent years.
On Monday, Rep. Lucy McBath (D-6) toured the Atlanta VA with House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Mark Takano. The two met with officials, healthcare providers and local veterans to hear about how congress can help improve care for those who rely on the medical facility.
Last year, the Atlanta VA was downgraded to a one star rating, the lowest on the scale for medical facilities that provide care for servicemen and women. The demotion was due in part to health hazards, staffing shortages and an Office of Inspector General report found that 42 women did not receive needed care including ordered mammograms.
McBath, a breast cancer survivor, said that she was concerned to learn of the delays.
"As a two-time breast cancer survivor myself, I know that these are very very critical screenings that these women deserve," she told reporters. "I'm very concerned that many of our women veterans have not received the same type of care that helped to save my very own life."
.@RepLucyMcBath says that “as a 2 time breast cancer survivor myself I know these are very critical screenings ... I’m concerned these veterans did not receive the same type of care that saved my own life” #GaPol pic.twitter.com/4ca2SnIxHx
— Robert Jimison (@RobertJimison) May 13, 2019
As one of the worst in the nation for staffing shortages, Takano said that many of the staff members he spoke with during this visit emphasized the need to ease the hiring process.
"I can't tell you how critically improtant it is for these vacancies to be filled," Takano said. "This has been told to me anecdotally nearly everywhere I go but reinforced by the staff here, we need to simplifiy the onboarding process for hiring."
He hopes that hiring more staff, including social workers who respond to suicide calls, will help to address all of the needs for veterans seeking care.