SALEM, Va.- – In a meeting closed to the public, Senator Tim Kaine met with staff and veterans at the Salem VA Medical Center on Tuesday. Marvin Johnson was one of those veterans.
He spent more than 15 years in the U.S. Army with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He's now medically retired. Johnson expressed his fear of privatization to Kaine.
"Being in a veteran system where people have dealt with PTSD and they've dealt with different things, going out to a private person who's never dealt with PTSD, that will be hard for a veteran," Johnson said.
His experience at the Salem VA has so far been in his favor.
"Everything I've ever asked for, I got. Now I'm not going to say that everyone got what they want. But on the other end, each condition is different," Johnson said.
On a regular basis, the senator's office receives complaints about the various Veterans Affairs medical centers in the commonwealth.
"It's not the quality of care. It can be waiting times for appointment or it can be waiting times to get a disability application ruling. So that will be the kinds of things that I hear complaints about. We still have work to do to solve those," Kaine said.
Kaine told those at the VA about a bill he's sponsoring to improve veterans' access to mental health care.
"This particular VA here in Salem has not had the difficulties that others have had in hiring mental health providers. But nationally, it's a significant issue," Kaine said.
He also recently introduced a bill allowing VA doctors to potentially recommend medical marijuana to veterans in states with established medical marijuana programs.
"So why isn't that a better thing to do than getting hooked on opioids? So I've heard from a lot of people and I'll become a supporter if it's done right of medical marijuana, both in veterans settings and elsewhere," Kaine said.
While at the VA, Kaine praised staff for their hard work to care for veterans.