Hill speaks on veteran issues

Katie Hill, December 08, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, used Thursday’s congressional Oversight and Reform Committee hearings to speak on a number of issues related to veterans, including suicide, VA wait times and how military families face exposure to harmful chemicals.

The committee’s first hearing was an Environment Subcommittee hearing with Dave Ross, an assistant administrator for the Office of Water at the Environmental Protection Agency. Ross helped participating members examine military families’ risk of exposure to harmful chemicals known as PFAS, which are commonly found in household items, consumer goods and the firefighting foam used on military bases.

The man-made chemicals have recently been linked to serious health conditions, including cancer, according to a news release from Hill’s office.

“This is a personal issue for me. I come from a district rooted in defense and service, where we have a large active duty military and veteran population,” Hill said in the release. “For my constituents, these are people who have fought for this country and have been exposed to these chemicals, and we expect the EPA and Department of Defense to take responsibility and work to regulate these harmful substances.”

During the congresswoman’s questioning, Ross agreed that the PFAS health crisis is a major national issue that should be addressed by the EPA.

The second hearing of the day featured Hill speaking on veteran suicide rates and VA health care.

“I’m concerned that the VA is failing to make progress on long-overdue reforms that are necessary to provide the best possible health care to over 9 million veterans,” the congresswoman said, speaking on the issue of wait times for veterans that sometimes last up to 70 days, which well exceeds the 30-day maximum limit under the law.

Hill ended by addressing the fact that the VA estimates that 20 veterans die by suicide each day, and some veterans commit suicide in the very hospitals where they went to receive care.

“The administration claims that veteran suicide prevention is one of its top priorities, but the numbers tell a different story,” Hill said. “Spending on outreach has declined substantially over the past several years, (but) I will hold the VA accountable in improving its suicide prevention program immediately to ensure veterans get the care they need and deserve.”

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