North Dakota is home to more than 50,000 veterans, with nearly 10 percent of the state’s adult population having served in the armed forces, compared to less than 7 percent nationally. We’re tremendously proud of our state’s veterans, who have frequently served with distinction, whether defending us at home or abroad. It only makes sense that we honor this heritage of service by working tirelessly to deliver the support, benefits and recognition that our veterans deserve. This month, we advanced two important initiatives to help do just that.
First, we secured a pilot program allowing veterans in North Dakota and western Minnesota to access hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). Now, the Fargo VA is one of only five locations able to offer this service, joining VA systems in California, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas. HBOT, which is typically used for things like decompression sickness and diabetic wounds, has shown promise for some as an alternative treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I worked over the past year to include the Fargo VA in the program so that the VA can give veterans in North Dakota the greatest possible access to this therapy. Under the clinical demonstration project, veterans who have yet to experience positive results from traditional treatments for PTSD will now have the opportunity to receive HBOT. This is all part of our continued push to improve mental health care and suicide prevention services for our veterans, and it builds on the progress we’ve made in expanding access to local health care and long-term care providers.
The very next day, I had the privilege to help dedicate North Dakota’s first VA National Cemetery in Harwood. As a member of the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee, I worked to fund the project through the National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) Rural Initiative, and it is the first such cemetery to be built under this initiative. Wahile we have a wonderful state-run veterans cemetery in Mandan, prior to this, North Dakota was only one of nine states without a National Cemetery.
This cemetery will allow local veterans to be laid to rest with honor, while being close enough to their homes for family and loved ones to easily visit and pay their respects. This is an essential part of properly recognizing the service of our veterans, and we appreciate the NCA for working with us in recent years to make this project a reality.
These are two concrete initiatives that we worked to advance in order to provide our veterans with the benefits and recognition they deserve, and to truly show our gratitude for North Dakota’s heritage of service.