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Rep. Harding Testifies on Behalf of Veterans with PTSD/TBI

Report by Paula Antolini
February 21, 2017 9:57AM EDT

 

Photo: State Representative Stephen Harding was joined by Bethel resident Tom Burke to testify on behalf of his proposed bill, House Bill 5580.

 

Rep. Harding Testifies on Behalf of Veterans with PTSD/TBI

HARTFORD – This month State Representative Stephen Harding (R-107) was joined by Bethel resident Tom Burke to testify on behalf of his proposed bill, House Bill 5580. This bill would expand eligibility of veterans’ benefits to certain discharged veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). As a Marine Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Burke suffers from combat-induced PTSD and attended today’s public hearing to advocate for fellow veterans.

Both Rep. Harding and Mr. Burke were approached after the hearing by a spectator thanking them for their testimony and effort to help veterans who are at a disadvantage thanks to mere faults and inefficiencies in the veteran’s affairs system.

Please see a copy of Rep. Harding’s written testimony regarding this bill below.

Photos below: Representative Stephen Harding (top photo and below left) and Bethel resident Tom Burke.

 

 

Co-Chairs Flexer, Martin, and Hennessy; Ranking Member Ferraro; and distinguished members of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs:

Thank you for allowing me to submit testimony in support of HB 5580, An Act Concerning Certain Veterans Discharged Due To PTSD or TBI.

I am offering this testimony this afternoon in regards to H.B. 5580. An Act Concerning Certain Veterans Discharged Due to PTSD or TBI. First, thank you to the members of this committee for raising this bill and addressing this important issue facing our State and Nation.

Over the course of my tenure as a State Representative, I have had the fortunate opportunity of meeting strong passionate advocates for veterans throughout my local community. These individuals are veterans themselves and others working in the professional ranks, dedicating their occupation and service to those who have bravely served us.

One critical issue that has been brought to my attention is veterans who have been administratively discharged due to circumstances related to PTSD and TBI suffered in combat. These men and women have bravely fought for our freedom and protection on the battlefield, have suffered due to these sacrifices, and yet are not eligible to receive the benefits that they rightly deserve, because of the classification of their discharge. If not for the sacrifices they have made on the battlefield, these men and women would not be suffering from PTSD or TBI and would have received honorable discharges; therefore, rendering them eligible for State Veteran benefits. It would simply be logical from a policy perspective for our State to recognize the injuries these veterans have suffered on the battlefield and how these injuries negatively impacted their current discharge status.

The veterans who have received administrative discharges due to PTSD or TBI statistically are the most vulnerable population to suffer the hardships that have been highlighted over the years by our returning veterans. By denying these men and women benefits, we are denying them medical care and other areas of assistance which are critical to effectively addressing their injuries and positively assisting them back into civilian life.

I have had the opportunity to speak with officials from our State’s Department of Veteran’s Administration and appreciate their efforts in regards to addressing this issue. I also thank them for highlighting their strong efforts in assisting our State Veteran’s in reclassifying some of their discharges; therefore, allowing them to receive Veteran benefits. I understand this is one effective avenue of alleviating this issue. With that said, I believe the State of Connecticut has an opportunity here to yet again be at the forefront of advocating for our veterans, and recognizing the sacrifices they have made. This can be done through creating our own program addressing the sacrifices of this population of State veterans, rather than allowing the Federal Government to decide whether or not these men and women receive benefits.

Once again, thank you to the esteemed members of this committee for allowing me the opportunity to speak on this bill and for all your work in assisting the brave men and women who have served our country. I strongly urge the passage of H.B. 5580.

 

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All photos from Rep. Stephen Harding.