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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 has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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