Veterans benefits among topics for president

by Sarah Fay Campbell

President Barack Obama spoke about the needs of veterans during Tuesday’s State of the Union address, and pledged to “slash” a backlog “so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned and our wounded warriors receive the health care — including the mental health care — that they need.”

The need for increased mental health treatment services for veterans has been one of the selling points of a proposed new behavioral health hospital in Coweta.

The Georgia Department of Community Health recently rejected a Certificate Of Need application for the proposed behavioral hospital. Under Georgia law, a CON is needed for any new hospital before it can be built. The company proposing to develop it, U.S. Health Vest, has appealed that denial, joined by Coweta County and the city of Newnan. Some legislators, including State Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto, are trying to do away with the Certificate Of Need process.

Local veterans groups have come out in favor of the proposed hospital.

Mental health has often been a topic in the debate over gun control. While 2013 was a year in which Obama strongly — and unsuccessfully — pushed stricter gun regulations, he mentioned it Tuesday only in passing.

"Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day,” Obama said. "I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say 'we are not afraid,' and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook."

Health care in general was a topic of the address, given just weeks after the Affordable Care Act officially went into effect.

Obama spoke of Amanda Shelley, a physician’s assistant, who hadn’t been unable to get insurance coverage because of a preexisting condition. She got coverage on Jan. 1. On Jan. 3 she felt a sharp pain, and three days later had emergency surgery. “Just one week earlier,” Amanda said, that surgery would’ve meant bankruptcy.”

“That’s what health insurance reform is all about — the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything,” Obama said.

"Now, I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in re-fighting old battles,” Obama said. "So, again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice — tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up."



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