The first panel was Andrea Sawyer (who is a caregiver for her husband Iraq War veteran Loyd Sawyer), Iraq War veteran Daniel Williams, Providence Health & Service's Dave Underriner and an inspector general, Dr. John Daigh. Sawyer and Williams shared stories that would tear your heart out, Williams addressing his own attempts to get treatment for PTSD and TBI, Sawyer attempting to get the treatment her husband needed (and wanted) for PTSD.
Senator Scott Brown: I'm going to concur with Senator [Richard] Burr. I'm curious. I mean the stories are not unlike others you have seen, Madame Chair, and others throughout the country. In Massachusetts we have very similar problems. They're working on 'em. With the Guard and Reserve, we have, I think, a better handle on it than the regular Army folks. Uhm, just had one question though. Dr. Daigh, the VA's increased the number of mental health staff by more than 6,800 and trained another 4,000 since last October. Yet we continue to hear stories like this. Where do you think the breakdown is?
Dr. John Daigh: Uh-uh, I'm going to be a little bit of a pessimist here. I think, uh, that people will try very hard. I'm not sure that all these stories will ever end. I think there will always be disappointments in the delivery of care between patients and their providers so --
Senator Scott Brown: But this seems, this seems just so egregious.
Dr. John Daigh: I-I understand that. [Crosstalk.] And I think that -- I think that the limit that I would see, I think there's sort of a finite number of practitioners out there and when you're in a city where there are mental health resources outside of what the VA owns, I think that an arrangement with those groups that are able to see veterans through a contracted or a regular occurring use would make it easier for the access issues, that I think are at the heart of much of what people are talking about, to be addressed where people can then see the experts they need to see.
Senator Scott Brown: So is there a breakdown that we can help with? For example, I'm in the military still and I understand that there's always rules and regulations. Is there a breakdown where you're not able to go and seek those assigned entities? And is this something that we need to tweek and fix to make that easier?
Dr. John Davigh: I would defer to experts on --
Senator Scott Brown: Is it territorial?
Dr. John Davigh: I would defer to experts on contracting but my message to you is I don't think fee basis, which in my view is a blow-off valve for a temporary increase in demand that you can't meet with the resources that you have is working and I think a more concerted effort to build relationships within the communities where they exist would alleviate some of what we hear here. And the other piece, I think, I do hope that the patient aligned care teams are better able to deal with the coordination -- both within VA and without VA. So that would be my view of what we need to consider.
Senator Scott Brown: Alright, I'll just defer to the next panel.
And that's my Brown coverage. Mike's grabbing some of the hearing and intends to note Scott Brown as well since that is his senator. (If you did not know, Mike is Trina's son.) And for those who need visuals, he took off and twirled his glasses and he'd gotten a hair cut since May (I think it was May that I last attended a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing but I could be remembering wrong).
Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"