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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Monday, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran addressed the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Eric Shinseki and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) officials regarding important needs for Kansas veterans.

Sen. Moran highlighted a U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs-sponsored roundtable discussion taking place on Thursday with veteran entrepreneurs to enhance veteran employment, small businesses and startups. He also asked Secretary Shinseki and other VA officials about the need for physicians at Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), hiring mental health care professionals to treat veterans in rural areas, and progress on a joint medical facility at McConnell Air Force Base in partnership with the Robert Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita.

Excerpts from the Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing can be found below, along with a link to the video:

“(0:02) To follow on what Senator Blumenthal was talking about —  jobs for veterans — one of the aspects that we've focused on is entrepreneurship and startup businesses. And in this committee on Thursday, we will have a round table discussion in regard to the VA — to veterans' opportunities — to support entrepreneurship and startup businesses as a method of earning a living and providing for families.

“(0:33) Mr. Secretary, when we last visited, which I think was in January, I as usual highlighted the shortage of professional healthcare providers within the VA system, especially at least what I am most familiar with is in Kansas. We talked about our CBOCs…Kansas is a very rural state, long distances to travel to the VA hospital. We have been successful with the VA’s help in opening CBOCs, but we have a tremendous shortage of a physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. And most of our CBOCs no longer have a physician. And my understanding is that, that has not changed since we visited in January. So I want to highlight that problem once again.

“(1:19) I also raise the topic of mental health professionals. The VA's plan in April was to hire 1,600 new clinical mental health staff including marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and licensed professional counselors (LPCs). And my understanding is that — and maybe you have included this in your testimony — that a significant number of that 1,600 — a little over a thousand — have been hired. But the numbers in Kansas are surprising or discouraging to me. And Kansas, again because of our rural nature, that's… not an atypical way of providing mental health services, either utilizing MFTs or LPCs. And from August of 2011 to August of 2012 there were no MFTs and no LPCs hired at any Kansas facility…These two groups represent 40 percent of the mental health professionals in the United States, but only 1 percent of the VA work force. I'd be interested in your response and your suggestions of how we can provide mental health services to more Kansas veterans.

“(4:42) I asked this question again last January. I have not received a reply. And it is apparently not in the FY14 budget. There has been considerable planning for a joint VA-DOD medical facility at McConnell Air Force Base…not in the budget and I asked for a status update last January about McConnell and the Dole VA in Wichita. And perhaps again, for the record, or if you know information today, I'd be pleased to know what progress is being made.

Click here to see Sen. Moran question the Secretary and VA officials during the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Hearing.