February 9, 2016
Today, U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) helped pass H.R. 2915, a bipartisan measure that will improve mental health care for female veterans and veterans who took part in classified missions during their service. Improving treatment procedures for veterans with classified mission experience was one of many proposals that Coronado residents Dr. Howard and Jean Somers offered to Congress following the suicide of their son, Sergeant Daniel Somers. Sergeant Somers suffered from post-traumatic stress (PTS) and tragically took his own life in 2013 after a long wait for individual treatment at the VA.
“As a country we have failed too many of our veterans, and their families, who sacrificed so much to serve and returned home with unseen battle scars,” Rep. Peters said. “These changes will make a real difference in the lives of veterans anguished by mental scars from their brave service. I have great admiration for Dr. Howard and Jean Somers who have now dedicated their lives to fixing the problems in a system that failed their son in order to save others.”
Between 2000 and 2010, veteran women committed suicide at a rate over five times higher than that of non-veteran women. Sgt. Somers, before taking his life, had requested individual treatment for his PTS even though the wait list was longer than group therapy, out of fear that he might reveal classified information in a group setting. Peters has been working with the Somers to address problems at the VA since coming to Congress. He is currently working with them to address the problem of family members not being aware of the rigors and hardships of military service and the services available to servicemembers and their families to help them cope. This issue was recently raised by other families of veterans in a San Diego Union-Tribune article about veterans suicide.
Peters, today, also helped pass bills to restore accountability at the VA and increase veterans benefits. “Our veterans should never be made to wait on fake lists for life-saving care or rely on Congress to get its act together in order to provide for their families,” Rep. Peters continued. “We must uphold our promise to our veterans and get them the benefits and high-quality care they have earned through their service.”
The VA Medical Center Recovery Act acknowledges failures at VA hospitals that falsified records and waiting lists and puts procedures in place to more quickly correct failures and restore accountability. The American Heroes COLA Act makes permanent the cost of living adjustment for veterans benefits to ensure that Congressional dysfunction does not keep veterans from getting the benefits that they deserve.