WASHINGTON – On Monday, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) assembled an assortment of local experts for a virtual roundtable on veterans’ issues in New Hampshire.
According to the panel, the state of New Hampshire veterans is a mixed one according to thoughts provided by those experts in the hour-long discussion.
According to Eric Golnick, a Navy veteran and CEO of Manchester-based VFR Healthcare, a healthcare organization catering exclusively to veterans, a “mental health tsunami” is looming over the horizon for veterans following the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Golnick stated that veterans find purpose during crisis situations such as the pandemic, but often lose that sense of purpose after the conclusion of a crisis.
Hassan also noted that Veterans Service Organization members have told her that there is still a stigma within the veteran community in seeking mental health assistance, one of the root causes in the epidemic of veteran suicides in the U.S.
“(In) the culture of service, and it’s something with first responders too, that (they think) ‘we’re supposed to be the strong ones’, and ‘it’s not clear whether (seeking mental health assistance) will be held against you professionally or culturally if you seek help.”
Golnick and others on the call indicated that one of the keys is telehealth services, which can reduce the amount of effort needed for veterans to seek help. However, a lack of broadband access in the North Country has made it difficult for veterans there to seek telehealth appointments.
Another key is reassuring veterans that seeking mental health assistance will not impact their ability to hold jobs or security clearances needed for jobs.
However, Hassan and others on the panel say progress has been made in addressing those stigmas and the federal government has also made steps to help through legislation like the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, which was signed into law on Friday.
Another topic during the roundtable was the need to help veterans engage in entrepreneurship, as well as readjustment for veterans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Ultimately, Hassan noted that increased investment in assistance for veterans assists civilians both in terms of new techniques and discoveries that can be transferred into the general population as well as harnessing the energy of veterans who have a greater chance of becoming vital members of the civilian economy if they are provided with the tools.
“Most veterans don’t stop serving, they just find different ways to do it,” said Hassan.