Murphy, DeLauro visit West Haven, hear veterans’ concerns
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro told a group of about three dozen military veterans Saturday morning they are continuing to fight for improved healthcare benefits for those who have served out country.
Murphy, D-Conn., said taking care of those who serve in the military is a critical element of the nation’s defense. The gathering was held at the West Haven Veterans Museum on Hood Terrace.
“If people don’t think they going to be taking care of when they come out, they’re not sign up in the first place,” Murphy said of the nation’s all-volunteer armed services.
DeLauro, D-3, said both she and Murphy serve on the Appropriations Committee, which gives them an opportunity to influence how the government spends its money.
“We are looking at increasing the resources that are available,” DeLauro said, especially for healthcare as well as employment and job training programs targeting veterans.
The two-year bipartisan federal budget agreement Congress approved earlier this month includes $4 billion to upgrade U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, Murphy said. Much of that money, he said, is targeted at fixing up building code violations at the health care facilities.
“The West Haven V.A. is a very old facility that needs a lot of work,” Murphy said. “We’re going to fight to bring as much of that money here as we can.”
During the question and answer session of Saturday’s meeting, several veterans in the audience told the lawmakers that the way the V.A. operates needs to be tinkered with.
Fred Jenks, a retired Marine Corps veteran from Cheshire, said the care V.A. hospitals provide is outstanding once those who have served in the armed services get through the bureaucracy. But, he said, changes need to be made in the system to help veterans who are returning home from the front navigate through the red tape.
“For someone coming back from a war zone who may be in fragile state, it (the V.A. bureaucracy) can be very frustrating,” Jenks said. “Having a single point of contact or a group of people responsible for guiding people through would be very helpful.”
The VA’s healthcare workers would also benefit from a more consumer-driven approach to serving those in their care, he said.
“We do not exist to provide them with jobs,” he told DeLauro and Murphy. “They exist to help us.”
Carol Johnson, an Air Force veteran and a trustee of VFW New Haven Post 12150, said changes need to be made in the way the West Haven campus handles mental health care of those who have served in the military.
“Seventy-five percent of those seen on an out-patient basis are seen by residents,” Johnson said. “They (the doctors doing their residencies) are good, but if you are a veteran being treated for trauma, you need time to develop a relationship with your physician. And the way things are now, residents get cycled out of the system every eight nine months.”