Thompson hosts forum on mental-health issues among active military, vets

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) met on Tuesday with several stakeholders from across the entire Erie region in a forum to discuss mental-health issues affecting men and women currently serving in the armed forces, as well as veterans.

The topics of discussion at the forum included post-traumatic stress disorder and the implementation of suicide-prevention programs for those who have served our nation.

“These are issues which are very important to me, both as a member of Congress and as the father of a son who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Thompson said. “I am so appreciative of the feedback provided by these groups who are truly on the front lines in helping our servicemen and women.”

In addition to local officials and veterans coordinators from various universities, many representatives from veterans organizations attended the forum, including Boots on the Ground and the Veterans Miracle Center of Erie, along with the VA Medical Center of Erie. Thompson also provided an update on pending legislation, some of which he authored, to help veterans and those who are still serving in the military, including:

• The Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members (MEPS) Act, which was amended into the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016. This legislation is intended to improve military suicide prevention by instituting a mental health assessment for all new recruits, to be used as a baseline through their military careers.

• The Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2015, which would allow Veterans Affairs health professionals to practice telemedicine across state borders, improving access to mental and behavioral health services, especially in rural areas. This builds upon previous Thompson legislation, the STEP Act, which was signed into law in 2013.

• The Veteran Wellness Act, which would create a grant program through the Department of Veterans Affairs for Veteran Service Organizations to assist with the modernization and improvement of facilities to be used for wellness activities.

“With Congress returning to session in September, I am looking forward to taking what I learned today in Erie back to my colleagues,” Thompson said. “We need to make sure those who have bravely served our nation have the support they need when they return home.”