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Veterans Share Personal Stories During Special Columbus VA Hearing

Esther Honig, WOSU News
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown says information shared at the hearing will be used to help craft legislation.

While trying to choke back tears, former Army Sergeant James Powers recalled a tough transition from the military to civilian life.

“I came home from Iraq in 2010. My transition, like many others’, didn’t go well. My life for the next four years slowly spiraled out of control,” Powers said as he recounted the chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder that led him to try to take his own life.

Powers was one of the Ohio veterans who traveled to the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s downtown branch on Tuesday to share their personal stories in a special field hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown said information shared at the hearing will be used to help craft legislation, and to put pressure on the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to try to resolve persistent issues like veterans’ suicides.

“There are too many suicides, too many men and women come home from the military with PTSD that’s untreated and never really discovered,” Browns said.

Regional VA Healthcare Director Robert McDivitt said an average of 20 or more veterans commit suicide every day, but only about a third of them are VA patients.

Brown said he also wants to address the current VA staffing shortage of 40,000 workers nationally.

Despite the problem with long wait times at many facilities, Brown said he is opposed to privatization.

“And I want to put my efforts into improving the VA, not seeing it spin away and privatize. When you privatize social security, or privatize medicare, privatize the VA, the public is not served.”

Ohio has more than 800,000 veterans, the majority of which are over the age of 55.