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Blunt highlights veterans' medical care during visit to Jefferson Barracks

After meeting with female veterans and healthcare providers, Blunt walks to the VA Women's Clinic in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

After stopping at the VA medical center in Jefferson Barracks, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he continues to be concerned about the long waiting lists of veterans seeking treatment. 

Blunt says he’s particularly worried about growing delays in treating combat-related mental illness and emotional problems. He says the VA should be responding quickly to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders and should be committed to offering the nation’s best treatments.

Based on what he heard from his private meeting Saturday, “the mental health people at the St. Louis VA want to do that as well,” Blunt said. “And I want to be helpful to them to be sure that they always have the resources they need so they can meet those needs when they occur, and not at a future date when it’s too late.”

Blunt is part of Missouri’s bipartisan congressional delegation who have been pressing for several years for improvements at the region’s VA facilities.

In an interview, Blunt said he’s pleased with the Senate’s last-minute approval of legislation that seeks to force the Veterans Administration to allow veterans to seek private options for some of their medical care.

Blunt also plans to press the issue with whoever is chosen as the Veteran Administration’s new director.

The senator says that the Veterans Administration needs to focus its medical expertise on combat-related injuries. It makes sense, Blunt said, for the VA to offer unparalleled treatments for combat-related injuries, such as those caused by roadside bombs, lost limbs and brain damage.

“But there’s no reason to believe that the Veterans Administration should necessarily be the best place to get your open-heart surgery done or get your renal cancer taken care of,” he said.

Although Blunt didn’t mention it, veterans issues are likely to a frequent topic of his expected re-election bid next year. The best-known Democrat competing for the post, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, is a military veteran and makes a point of emphasizing his own views when it comes to the treatment of the nation’s military.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.