After Robert Gates, Department of Defense Secretary, finished his unprecedented speech on Monday, it was clear that change was going to happen for the better. His plans focused on alleviating “frustrating, adversarial and unnecessarily complex” paperwork that injured or traumatized veterans undergo throughout their treatment protocol.

It is clear that adequate and accessible support for veterans is much needed. Gates especially urged the support for those retired or discharged who have endured physical wounds or developed mental disorders. He supported this by shedding light on the large backlog of patient requests as well as the high case rate of post-traumatic stress disorder. It has been estimated that 1 in 20 men and women returning from active duty suffer from PTSD.

Joining Gates at the first-ever Department of Defense/VA Mental Health Summit was Eric Shinseski, U.S. Department of Veterans Affair Secretary. Since taking over office in January, Shinseski has set veteran health on the top of his to-do list. In April, Shinseski, Gates and President Barack Obama announced the launch of a new system to streamline veteran health records. This would marry the documentation between the DoD and the Veterans Health Administration, so those transitioning from active duty would not be delayed when enrolling for veteran health benefits.

Shinseki has also established binding promises with the White House and Congress to inform the VA a year in advance about the agency’s budget. This will make long-term planning achievable and resource allocation much simpler. He has also successfully expanded the criteria for collecting Agent Orange disability benefits.

The advances that the Veteran Health Association has made in this short period of time will simplify and organize veteran’s health procedures. The frequency of health problems post duty requires adequate care and a strong support system. Ranging from mental illnesses like PTSD to physical illnesses like cancer, veterans deserve a smooth process in getting the treatment and care they require.

Mesothelioma, the form of cancer caused by asbestos contact, is prevalent among military veterans. Veterans as a whole represent the highest rate of this type of cancer. Since mesothelioma is often diagnosed in its later stages, the treatment regime is often aggressive and excessive.

Veterans and their families deserve an efficient treatment process which must be backed by the VHA. Recognition of the countless health issues plaguing is imperative for solving and simplifying protocol.

Shinseki urged that there is still much work to be done as far as health components go. He had stated at a “State of the VA” presentation on Oct. 14, that “We must work short-term and long-term strategies to reduce the backlog of disability claims, even as they increase in number and complexity. In July, we closed out a VA-record [of] 92,000 claims in a single month--and received another 91,200 new ones."