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VA Secretary visits Sparks
by Andrea Tyrell
Jul 31, 2013 | 1594 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
U.S Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki addresses the crowd gathered Wednesday at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
U.S Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki addresses the crowd gathered Wednesday at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
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U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, spoke to a room full of veterans and their supporters Wednesday afternoon in the Rose ballroom at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. As the key-note speaker during the week-long AMVETS convention, Secretary Shinseki spoke about changing the stigma of veterans’ mental health care.

“We all can use professional help with difficult times,” said Shinseki, noting the rise in veteran suicide. According to the Office of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide every day, suffering from illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety and depression.

“We are not damaged goods,” said Shinseki. “We should be able to get help without being ostracized.”

“All veterans should be able to get a job, have access to education and adequate health care and the chance to join the middle class in order to contribute to our growing economy,” said Shinseki.

Last month, the White House hosted a conference on veterans’ health care where President Obama added more money to fund the VA department’s budget, hiring 1,600 mental health professionals and specialists for veterans and their families. With the increased budget, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs focused on the growth of their Veteran’s Crisis Hotline, a service that provides over-the-phone counseling to any veterans that call in. With the hotline’s service, 890,000 veterans called in, looking for help and 30,000 lives were rescued during suicide attempts. In 2009, the Department of Veterans Affair’s offered an online chat system in ordinance with the Veterans Crisis Hotline. In 2011, veterans were able to access the hotline through text messaging. Three weeks ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a smartphone application, the PTSD Coach, that helps direct veterans on the road to proper mental health care.

Also with the increased budget, the Department of Veterans Affairs created a traveling conference of mental health professionals, touring and meeting with veterans and their families all over the United States. The northern Nevada leg of this tour will be held Sept. 13 at the Veteran Affairs Sierra Nevada Hospital located at 975 Kirman Street in Reno.

There are currently 151 mental health facilities exclusively for veterans around the country. The newest VA facility is located in southern Nevada. The Las Vegas Hospital and Community Living Center opened last summer in North Las Vegas, offering services to veterans all over the state, including health care, temporary housing and senior citizen care to those in need.

In the state of Nevada, there are roughly 228,400 veterans with 100,000 veterans over age 65 and 3,000 veterans 25 years of age or younger. Nevada’s veteran population has decreased 5 percent since 2000.

Shinseki has served as Secretary of Veteran Affairs under President Obama since January 2009. He is a retired four-star general and is a veteran of the Vietnam War.

The nationally recognized AMVETS assist with veterans and their families, helping them receive benefits and proper healthcare. The AMVETS hosts a national convention each year in a major U.S. city, featuring lectures, discussion and speech on how to improve the lives of American veterans and their families. This year, the AMVETS convention is hosted by the Nugget and will continue to run until Sunday. This is the 69th National Convention in the AMVETS history.

For more information about the AMVETS convention at the Nugget, visit www.amvets.org.
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