U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican, is working on moving the Department of Veterans Affairs away from prescribing “strong” psychotherapeutic medications to veterans.
He said the department uses the medications as its “primary method of treating” veterans with mental health conditions, and that has Coffman concerned.
“An over reliance on prescription medication may in some instances leave veterans in a more vulnerable state,” Coffman wrote Monday to Gene Dodaro, the comptroller general of the United States within the Government Accountability Office.
Coffman highlighted post-traumatic stress disorder as an issue. He expressed concerns around cutting off patients suddenly from medications and addictions that cause “unpredictable or dangerous forms of behavior.”
“Given these concerns, I write to request that the Government Accountability Office review the VA’s psychoactive drug-centric standard of mental health care for our veterans,” Coffman wrote.
“Many veterans return from service with PTSD, often referred to as one of the invisible wounds of war,” the letter continued. “Buttressing my concerns are a combination of data from the VA’s 2016 suicide data report and numerous cases that have come to my attention, including two in particular from the state of Colorado.”
Coffman pointed to a veteran from Broomfield, Cory Hixson, who suffers from conditions related to his second tour in Iraq. Hixson fled his family and home. Authorities found him in Erie in a garage looking for food and clothing. His wife reported that the VA repeatedly changed Hixson’s medications.
In the second example Coffman gave from Colorado, combat veteran Noah Harter, from Colorado Springs, suffered from PTSD and other issues after two deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coffman cites reports stating that he was prescribed “powerful medications” that may have contributed to Harter dying by suicide.
The proportion of Veterans Health Administration users with mental health conditions or substance use disorders has increased from about 27 percent in 2001 to more than 40 percent in 2014, according to statistics cited in Coffman’s letter.
He called for careful monitoring and raised a series of questions regarding the VA’s use of non-pharmacological therapy, and psychotherapeutic drug and opioid procedures. Specifically, Coffman called to attention concerns around veterans being prescribed stimulants, benzodiazepines, and opioids – in some cases together. The congressman also raised questions on suicide rates.
“Although I recognize that in many cases the use of psychoactive medications is appropriate for veterans with mental health conditions, I believe that their use is not necessarily the best first resort and that in many instances the alternatives of non-medicated treatment or cognitive-behavioral therapy may prove a preferred option,” Coffman wrote.
I’m proud to have served my country — but my country, or more precisely its health care system, has been falling short in recent years. The VA facilities have had well-known problems and 1.75 million veterans who rely on Medicaid for their health care are facing an uncertain future. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) clearly needs to be repealed, but a simultaneous replacement guaranteeing fair coverage must be enacted as well.
As a member of Congress, I have the unique opportunity to visit the memorials dedicated to fallen service members that are just a short distance from the Capitol building. Across the Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery serves as the final resting place for hundreds of thousands of men and women who served in the armed services. Each day I work in Washington, I am reminded that the privilege we have of living in a free society has been paid by so many who have selflessly sacrificed their lives in service to their country. Memorial Day offers an important opportunity for us to reflect and pay our respects to those who have given all.
Parades, mattress sales and burgers on the grill are all nice, but I feel we should do more to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Ah, yes, you speak of the Memorial Day holiday, a day intended to honor the men and women who gave their lives to protect the freedoms too many Americans take for granted.
As military veterans return home and reintegrate into civilian life, underlying mental illness issues can spill over into altercations with the law.
“While most veterans readjust and transition back without problems, some do not,” U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO6., and Republican colleagues on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, have introduced HR 1259, the Veteran’s Affairs Accountability First Act of 2017. The bill would provide the secretary of veteran affairs increased discrepancy to remove, demote or suspend any VA employee, including senior executive service employees, due to performance or misconduct.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter plans to hold a Vietnam War 50th Commemoration Ceremony on Friday, March 24. All Vietnam-era veterans in Colorado are eligible to receive the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin at the ceremony.
The ceremony is part of an ongoing national program to honor all Vietnam-era veterans — military service members who were on active duty between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975, regardless of where they served.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have had the privilege of meeting many veterans from across the 3rd Congressional District and hearing fascinating stories detailing their military service and their contributions to communities across Colorado.
Pueblo is among my favorite places to visit in our district. The city is a melting pot of different cultures, and it has a rich history that is filled with memories of the still-active 135-year-old steel mill. Perhaps most importantly, the people of Pueblo have a long tradition of selfless service to our nation.
Colorado is home to over 400,000 of our nation’s veterans — men and women who have fought to protect our freedom in conflicts around the world. These men and women are often some of the most respected individuals in our communities, which makes it easy to overlook that they may be struggling to transition back into civilian life at the end of their service.