Letters: Strengthen support for veterans

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Newsday buried on Page A11 a news story about the high rate of suicides among our American veterans ["Alarm on veteran suicides," Aug. 11]. There was a related story about how the president has managed to reduce the backlog of veterans' claims ["Obama: Backlog of vets' claims cut 20%," News, Aug. 11].

The real story, however, was that 780,000 claims are still pending. That is sickening. And yet we see our politicians invoking their love and support for the members of our armed forces. But when it comes to putting money where your mouth is, they are all too silent. How many politicians have proposed raising taxes for a fund dedicated to our veterans? Have they even asked if we would support such an effort? I sure would.

George Proios, Farmingville

Editor's note: The writer has two children who've served in the military.

It is tragic to hear that thoughts of suicide and frustration with programs designed to help veterans transition back into civilian life are among the top concerns of those returning from war.

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Last month, I introduced and passed a bipartisan amendment, with Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill that would transfer funding to critical mental health programs for veterans and service members. This funding would ensure that those who put their lives on the line for our country have access to the care and innovative treatments they deserve.

One solution to combat this problem is to create public-private partnerships between the Department of Defense and community organizations that are already engaged in research, treatment, education and outreach on military mental health issues, including substance use disorders and traumatic brain injury. Last year, this solution was authorized as a pilot program as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal 2013.

The Department of Defense Appropriations Act voted on last month would provide the necessary funding to make these public-private partnerships a reality. The Israel-King amendment would allow additional programs like this to be created to provide better and timelier service to our veterans and service members.

Rep. Steve Israel, Huntington

Editor's note: The writer represents is New York's 3rd Congressional District.


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