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March 10, 2020

King Stresses the Importance of Veteran Mental Health After Active Military Service Concludes

“The Department of Defense should put as much time, effort and money into transition out as they do to recruitment in”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed nominees for top Department of Defense (DOD) positions on the need for the DOD to increase collaboration with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as servicemembers transition out of the military and into civilian life. Senator King, a cosponsor of a bill that would designate a three-digit phone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline, emphasized the importance of increasing support for newly-discharged veterans in order to decrease the rate of veteran suicides and improve overall quality of life. 

“I’ve met recently with our veteran service organizations – the number one thing that I hear most frequently is the faulty handoff between the Department of Defense and the VA,” said Senator King. “Suicides, the data is that suicides of veterans are most likely to take place in the first year to three years after they leave active duty. I believe that the Department of Defense should put as much time, effort and money into transition out as they do to recruitment in. This is a really serious problem, and I hope that you will really pay some attention to this because I hear this everywhere I go in Maine – from individual veterans and veterans’ organizations.”

Senator King’s questioning came during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee considering the following nominations: Matthew Donovan, to be Under Secretary Of Defense For Personnel And Readiness; William Jordan Gillis, to be Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Sustainment; and Victor Mercado, to be Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Strategy, Plans, And Capabilities.

A member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator King has been an advocate for Maine veterans during his time in the U.S. Senate, working to honor their service and provide them with the high-quality care they have earned through their service. Recently, he urged the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to improve the VA’s payment processing and ensure delayed payments do not harm Maine healthcare providers’ viability – or the veterans who rely on their services. Last month, he caught up with several Maine veterans who are patients at Togus VA Medical Center, saluting their service and expressing the gratitude of Maine people. He spent Veterans Day in 2019 traveling the state and meeting with Maine veterans in Portland, Waterville, and Augusta. In October, Senator King met with Maine veterans, healthcare providers, and advocates at the 22nd Annual Stand Down at Togus – a yearly event that highlights services and resources for veterans who are homeless or in transitional housing.

In September, Senator King announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded a lease contract for a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Portland. The facility will allow more veterans to access care in their own communities and reduce the strain on Togus. In June, Senator King took part in the official, bipartisan Senate delegation to Normandy, France, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion by Allied forces during World War II. In May, he spoke at Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Augusta to pay tribute to America’s fallen heroes and honor the sacrifices of America’s veterans and their families.         

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