Jared Golden skeptical of VA mental health improvements

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AUGUSTA — Shortly after a legislative hearing focused on the failings of mental health care for Maine veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ inspector general issued a report hailing improvements by the VA’s Maine Healthcare System.

All four members of the state’s congressional delegation said in a joint statement they were “pleased to see improvement” since a 2015 report that pointed out problems.

“It’s good that the VA is doing a better job of holding itself accountable to its own standard of care,” said state Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, who is pushing an initiative to have the state lend a hand in helping veterans find the mental health care they need.

He said, though, that even if the VA has improved, it is still not meeting the needs of many veterans.

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“I’m always skeptical when the government says a problem is fixed because it’s now meeting its own standard,” Golden said.

The inspector general’s new report said the most significant problems remaining for the VA in Maine to address are related to training schedulers and making sure they contact patients directly before sending them appointments via a letter.

It doesn’t say anything about the 10 to 14 day waiting times that Golden and others said veterans who are seeking help experience.

In the statement from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree, the federal legislators said they are looking forward “to working with VA leadership in Maine to address the additional deficiencies” mentioned by the inspector general.

“It’s vitally important that no Maine veterans slip through the cracks when it comes to mental health,” they said.

The Veterans Affairs office in Washington, D.C.

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