VA secretary speaks in Sparks on mental health and claims backlog

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VA secretary speaks in Sparks on mental health and claims backlog

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki spoke in Sparks Wednesday at the annual AMVETS convention.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki spoke in Sparks Wednesday at the annual AMVETS convention.

Shinseki announced a series of events that the VA is hosting in Reno and across the country to address mental health issues for veterans.

A major topic of Shinseki's address was mental healthcare for veterans, including 151 mental health summits the VA is hosting at local medical centers across the nation over the next two months.

Reno's event is scheduled for mid-September.

The talk also focused on the notorious backlog of VA claims.

"In March of this year, the backlog reached an all-time high of 611,000 claims. Today, about 120 days later, it's less than 507,000."

The VA's goal is to eliminate that backlog by 2015, but right now, there are still claims that are more than a year old.

AMVETS is the fourth largest veterans group. One of its major legislative priorities is to make it illegal to discriminate against veterans for housing and employment.

Spokesperson Diane Zumatto says that with fewer Americans enlisting today, perceptions on military life are based more on bad press than reality.

"We hear constantly about things like TBI, PTSD, military suicide, military sexual trauma--these are all negatives, and so this has skewed the perception for folks that don't have that personal experience."

Two bills were introduced this month into the House and Senate to add veterans to the current categories for non-discrimination recognized by the federal government. Lawmakers are reviewing the bills in committee.