Members of a national group representing veterans who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be sitting down with Florida's United States Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson later this week in Jacksonville. They'll be discussing issues near and dear to their heart. At the top of the list is applying for mental health services.
Retired Air Force Sgt. Chris Braddock, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is hoping this weeks meeting with the senators will bring about some change.
Braddock, a leader of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says the transition to civilian life, is something, he and other veterans struggle with. Among other issues, Braddock will be asking Rubio about a backlog in the VA hospital.
"Right now in large cities, the VA backlog when they apply for services in their cities, lets say New York, (is) 670 days before they get a response from the VA," Braddock says. "In Florida we are lucky: 240 days until they get a response."
Braddock says Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are waiting too long for treatment for services like mental health care. Many them in need of treatment, soon as they step foot on American Soil.
Braddock says, "Right now we are having 22 veterans a day killing themselves and that's only half the states, so we have to get more mental health care, and we need it now.”
Braddock says veterans are waiting for months for a response from the VA hospital, because they have yet to go digital, and everything is on paper file. He'll be asking Rubio and Nelson to spend money on technology, because there’s no time to waste.
"People need to be seen by competent mental health officials to be helped professionally," Braddock stresses. "But there way understaffed, there’s simply not enough VA professionals for the need that is out there.”
Braddock says veterans are also concerned about having to pay out of state fees for the GI Bill and programs for sexual assault prevention.