Washington, DC – Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-Santa Clarita) used her time Wednesday in the Oversight and Reform Committee hearings to shine a light on the issues of veteran suicide, VA wait times, and veteran and military family exposure to harmful chemicals.
The first hearing was an Environment Subcommittee hearing with Dave Ross, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to examine the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals known as PFAS, for military families. These chemicals are found in common household items, consumer goods, and firefighting foam used on military bases, but are now linked to serious health conditions, including cancer.
“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 began. “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 (DoD) to take responsibility and work to regulate these harmful substances.”
During the Congresswoman’s questioning, Mr. Ross agreed that the PFAS health crisis is a major national issue for the EPA to address. It was also evident that those in military service are disproportionately exposed to these harmful chemicals, which are currently under-regulated by the EPA.
During the second hearing with the Government Accountability Office, Hill presided over the committee as Vice Chair and oversaw the questioning. In an expansive report that spanned a gamut of government offices at risk for mismanagement and waste, Hill honed in on veteran suicide rates and VA healthcare.
“I’m concerned that the VA is failing to make progress on long-overdue reforms that are necessary to provide the best possible healthcare to over nine million veterans,” Hill said.
She went on to address the issue of wait times for veterans at facilities – sometimes up to 70 days – which well exceeds the 30-day maximum limit under the law. Her line of inquiry sought answers on how to address those wait times to provide our veterans with the care and relief they need.
She 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 VA 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 concluded. “Spending on outreach has declined substantially over the past several years. I will hold the VA accountable in improving its suicide prevention program immediately to ensure veterans get the care they need and deserve.”
Hill’s office provides constituent services, which include help with veteran’s issues and federal agencies.
Footage of the full exchange can be found here.