Indiana vet goes before house panel
Written by Maureen Groppe Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — An Indiana veteran who was raped during her service urged Congress Friday to make it easier for sexual assault victims to get treatment outside the Veterans Affairs Department.
Lisa Wilken of Westfield said there’s a wait of almost two years at the Indianapolis VA facility to get treatment for military sexual trauma.
“We need better resources and those resources can be outside of the VA in our local communities,” Wilken told a health panel of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “If we could utilize our local health providers and mental health providers, I know the men and women in Indiana would utilize that. Unfortunately, getting the approval from the VA to go outside is a difficult process.”
Congress has been debating the best way to address an epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.
After listening to Wilken and three other victims tell their stories at Friday’s hearing, a VA official agreed that more needs to be done.
“As much as we in the VA have done a lot for survivors of (military sexual trauma) over the last few years, we also feel that there are significant gaps that have been pointed out by the panel that we need to address,” said Dr. Rajiv Jain, assistant deputy undersecretary for patient care services.
But the head of stress disorder treatment at a VA center in Kansas told the committee that his facility already offers outstanding customer service.
That prompted Rep. Jackie Walorski, the Indiana Republican who sits on the panel, to say the VA officials were in a different world than the victims.
“We just heard absolutely gut-wrenching testimony from extremely courageous people whose lives have been ruined,” Walorski said. “With all due respect, the customer service is going great maybe for those who actually access the program. But for the people who are sitting here representing tens of thousands of people, it isn’t working.”
She asked Wilken to rate the care for victims in Indiana. Wilken gave it a ‘3’ out of 10.
“They are making an effort,” Wilken said. She said the sexual trauma coordinator in Indianapolis is wonderful, but is just one person.