Ernst finds her voice

Source: Quad City Times

By the Times Editorial Board

With strong words and clear resolve, Sen. Joni Ernst introduced her first legislation Monday in a floor speech we wish more Americans would hear.

That’s why we’re publishing it in print and online today. Ernst wisely abandoned references to breadbags and spoke with compelling compassion about a subject on which she excels: Veterans.

We’re among Iowans cheering Ernst’s sensible call to go outside the Veterans Affairs Administration when needed to give veterans faster, closer mental health care when VA hospitals and clinics cannot respond. Several reports suggest the current waits and treatment are sadly insufficient.

“There is no acceptable VA wait time for mental health care for our veterans,” Ernst said.

She noted that a VA mental health consultant testifying to a Senate committee in November reported an average wait of 36 days. That’s the average.

Ernst, famously a reserve lieutenant colonel in the Iowa reserve, recounted firsthand encounters with hurting veterans desperate for services. She told senators about one vet who confessed two suicide attempts. She said veterans -- like many Americans – do not get mental health treatment until they wind up in an emergency room.

“The ER should not be considered a back-stop for delayed mental health care at the VA, as most veterans who seek mental health treatment at emergency rooms do so when they have reached the limits of their suffering,” Ernst said.

Regular Times readers may recall our concerns about Ernst at election time. This week, Ernst served veterans and Iowans wonderfully well with specific legislation and a passionate plea to fix a problem she knows better than perhaps any other U.S. senator.

We urge her congressional colleagues to heed the lieutenant colonel. Pass legislation providing immediate mental health treatment to these veterans who have faced the horrors of war for us. Need more convincing? Read today’s excerpt of Ernst’s speech, right down to the last line.

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