Congressman Beto O’Rourke held a town hall for veterans Monday morning in the Austin High School Gymnasium.
It was his 100th public town hall meeting since he was sworn into office in January, 2013.
“We have held these town halls in every single part of the community, listening to everyone…but everyone is important in this community,” O’Rourke said, “So, we listen to everyone and I guarantee you that has made me a much better representative than I would have been otherwise. It has kept me honest, it has made me accountable, it has forced us to deliver and make the progress that we have seen so far.”
O’Rourke spoke about his priorities for veterans, including access to quality mental healthcare and reducing veteran suicide. The congress man said we are in a crisis for veteran suicide referring to statistics. Twenty veterans commit suicide everyday, and 14 of 20 are not receiving Veteran Affairs Care.
The Congressman told those in attendance that “Not too long ago, El Paso ranked dead last in the country in wait times to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist. With this community setting it’s mind to it, we’ve turned that around, and actually, last month we were better than the national average in mental health care wait times.”
Many veterans stood up and spoke to O’Rourke, all addressing different issues including metal health and the relation to opioid abuse, rape in the military and the future of El Paso’s VA Clinic.
“Once the new William Beaumont opens for operation, shifting operation fund for the old one will diminish slowly. Land has been offered to build a clinic at the new Will b, funding is needed for this project and we hold everyone accountable,” said one veteran.
Another disabled veteran who served during 9/11 struggled to hold back tears. “We as veterans serve this country, we should not be denied the justice that we deserve,” the woman said, “Rape should not have a statute of limitations. It’s time that a man, a man take a stance for us because, as women, we keep getting shut down or labeled mentally incompetent. “
O’Rourke said this was his second-to-last town hall for veterans as the representative of El Paso, “It’s the greatest honor that I’ve ever held to be able to represent and serve them, to be able to make progress based on the ideas that they’ve given us, the questions that they ask of us, their demand that I be held accountable for delivery for each and every single person that has worn the uniform.”
O’Rourke did not seek reelection for his congressional seat. He is challenging Texas Senator Ted Cruz.