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Town hall meeting with Rep. Max Rose focuses on the challenges veterans face when they transition from military service to civilian life.

Veterans expressed concern over issues like homelessness, suicide and a lack of transportation to get to and from VA facilities during a town hall meeting in New York’s 11th district. 

Rep. Max Rose held his first veteran town hall this month for local retired service members, and invited representatives from the VA to attend. During his town hall meeting, Martina Parauda, who serves as a director at the VA-NY Harbor Health Care System, took questions from dozens of veterans in attendance. 

Making the transition from working as an enlisted member of the military to civilian life isn’t always an easy task. Although many veterans have a relatively smooth transition, research indicates 27% of veterans say re-entry proved difficult. And according to the Pew Research Center, difficulty re-entering civilian life is higher among veterans who served after 9/11. These are challenges that Rose faced himself after serving in Afghanistan with the U.S Army, and something he says he wants to address in his town hall meetings.

“The thing I miss the most about the Army is that common bond among all of the incredible soldiers I served with, that allowed us to put all of our individual differences aside to work together around a shared mission and purpose,” Rose said. “Finding that mission and purpose in civilian life is definitely a challenge. That’s one reason why I think you see so many veterans like myself gravitating towards public service, because we realize that uniting around our common values is the best way to make progress, and we want to see more of that in Washington.”

Transportation is one major barrier for veterans returning to civilian life, according to the veterans who attended the meeting. The National Conference of State Legislators notes that about 40% of veterans are 65 or older, and many no longer drive. This adds another challenge, because many older veterans are also the core volunteers on which veterans’ transportation programs rely. And as these veterans age they continue to need ongoing healthcare. 

“From mental healthcare for veterans to accessibility and transportation issues, we have work to do,” Rose said during the meeting.  “I appreciated Director Parauda joining us to provide updates and answer questions. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished so far just this year to address veterans suicide, improve care for women veterans, and bring more transparency to the VA and hope the Senate take swift action to send these to the President’s desk soon. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

Suicide among veterans was another issue that came up during the town hall meeting. According to the VA, in 2017 veterans accounted for 13.5% of all deaths by suicide. Although there has been an increase in the rate of veteran suicides over the last 10 years, 2017 had a lower rate than the previous five years. 

In response to the rate of suicides, Rose introduced the FIGHT Veterans Suicide Act which requires the VA to notify congress of a suicide of attempted suicide that occurs at at VA facility. 

“It is imperative that we receive not only basic information from the VA, but substantive data on this rising trend of veterans committing suicide at VA facilities,” Rep. Rose said. “We must ensure all veterans have the services they need when they need them, plain and simple.” 

Along with information on the facility where the suicide or attempted suicide took place, the FIGHT Veterans Suicide Act also requires the VA to provide information on the proper way to report these incidents without sensationalizing them and information on the resources that are available to veterans.