COLUMBIA, Mo. - In his first visit to Truman VA Hospital in Columbia, Senator Roy Blunt (R - Missouri) commended the facility's emergency mental health service.
"I had, I thought, good answers from this hospital about the immediate triage in talking to veterans wherever they are and deciding if they're waiting should be that day," Blunt said. "And, of course, if you've got a mental health problem or physical health problem that needs to be that day, no waiting list is good enough."
The state's junior senator stopped in Columbia on his tour of mental health facilities throughout Missouri. Blunt also spoke about the growing scandal surrounding VA hospitals, and the requests from lawmakers the Department of Veterans Affairs' Secretary Eric Shinseki resign.
"If this secretary leaves, then we'll get the new one a couple years to get up to speed, and by then there'll be a new president, and another new secretary to get up to speed," Blunt said. "I think it's time to look at the alternatives, find solutions that's worthy of our veterans and worthy of their service."
Blunt's stop in Columbia comes two days after President Barack Obama outlined the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to the president's plan, more than 22,000 veterans will return to the U.S. by the end of 2014.
Dramon Hayes, a retired Marine Corps veteran, said the strain a new group of veterans will put on the VA system may make wait times even longer.
"I think with the number of years we've been in combat, the number of fronts that we're fighting it on, we're creating a bigger source of veterans than we have the resources to take care of them," Hayes said. "And when that starts getting out of hand, we need to start re-evaluating what's important here."
Dennis Johnson drives veterans from Holts Summit to Columbia for care at Truman VA. He said veterans often wait hours after their scheduled appointment times for procedures. While the care at Truman VA is good, he said, the hospital could use more staff.
"The government's wanting more money for this, they should give it," Johnson said. "They took care of us, we should take care of them."