RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., hosted a socially-distanced veterans roundtable with Carlos Hopkins, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs, and Richmond-area veterans.

The nearly 60-minute conversation took place on October 14 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond. The discussion was held to open-up dialogue on specific challenges related to veterans such as healthcare, mental health services and housing for veterans.

Army veteran Donald Bates served in the U.S. Army’s 11th Infantry Division from 1982 until 1986. He saw one of Warner’s veteran-related campaign ads and wanted to know more about his platform.

Donald Bates
Army veteran Donald Bates holds photos from his time in service. Bates attended a roundtable for veterans on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (Photo D’Andre Henderson)

He shared that he wants someone in D.C. that will fight for veteran rights today and in the future.

“We have to help those who have already put their lives on the line,” Bates said. “While preparing to be able to help those, who will go into the service within the next few years.”

Sen. Warner has been in the United States Senate since 2009 and he said he recognizes military families’ needs during the pandemic.

“Many veterans feel isolated,” Sen. Warner said. “They are not able to get the kind of support networks and we know there are enormous mental health challenges.”

Sen. Warner, along with Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), co-sponsored a bill to expand veterans’ access to mental health services. Sen. Warner said at the roundtable that the Veterans Health Administration (VA) estimates about 20 veterans die each day by suicide.

In August 2020, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation with the House of Representatives passing the bill in late September.

Sen. Warner said he and President Trump usually don’t see eye to eye. For this bill, however, he’s happy it’s sitting on the President’s desk.

“I’m grateful the President is going to sign it,” Sen. Warner said. “It’s been a bipartisan bill; I’ve worked with a Republican Senator from Arkansas from day one and I’m very proud of it.”

And Bates said this bill is monumental because its’s hope for so many veterans in Virginia.

“This helps so many disabled veterans,” he said. “This is why I wanted to come down here today, to hear how this will help veterans.”

Bates shared he’s been through it all. He’s lost his parents and doesn’t have much of a relationship with his brother or daughter. He said this bill will provide light at the end of the tunnel for veterans, that have experienced multiple forms of trauma.

  • Senator Warner and Secetary Hopkins speak with one another before the roundtable.(Photo D'Andre Henderson 2020)
  • Veterans discussing issues important to them at the roundtable. (D'Andre Henderson 2020)
  • Senator Warner wearing a mask practicing social distancing during the event. (D'Andre Henderson 2020)


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