Bristol, Tenn. – More medical marijuana research is needed before being used to treat military veterans, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe told a Veterans Town Hall meeting at Bristol Regional Medical Center on Tuesday night.
Army veteran Derrick Plank of Bluff City, who was wounded in Iraq in 2003, noted 26 states allow medical marijuana use and asked Roe to consider it at the meeting held in the hospital’s Monarch Auditorium.
He later suggested medical marijuana could be used to effectively treat veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.
Roe, R-Tenn., responded: “It’s very simple. (Marijuana is) a drug. That drug should be studied, like any other drug. Legislatures shouldn’t be deciding whether it’s applicable or not. Scientists should be. … ‘I feel good’ is not science.”
Roe, a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, has said at a number of public events he wants to be the committee’s next chairman.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a wealth of services for some 22 million American veterans – including about 70,000 in Northeast Tennessee – but a rash of preventable veteran deaths and benefit delays has put the organization under intense scrutiny. That scrutiny began in 2014 when investigators found an Arizona VA facility was falsifying wait times for veteran treatment.
“Despite the fact that multiple VA Inspector General reports have linked many VA patient care problems to widespread mismanagement within VA facilities and GAO (General Accounting Office) findings that VA bonus pay has no clear link to performance, the department has consistently defended its celebration of executives who presided over these events, while giving them glowing performance reviews and cash bonuses of up to $63,000,” according to VA Accountability Watch.
A report found problems associated with veterans’ access to health care to be the “most public and glaring deficiency” at VA hospitals and recommended that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) establish a system that further integrates private health care providers – called the “VHA Care System” – to ensure veterans swiftly obtain care that suits them. The new system would replace the Choice Program established by Congress in 2014, which allows veterans waiting long periods for appointments or living far from VA hospitals to seek care at medical facilities outside the VA.
The proposed system would give veterans more choice in selecting their providers and would eliminate the wait time and distance criteria established under the current program. Patients would choose their primary and specialty care providers from providers in the system and would be able to seek care at any VHA Care System location across the country, in coordination with their primary care provider.
Roe spent much of the event talking about other topics, including No Child Left Behind, the $19 trillion federal government debt, his vote against the Iran nuclear deal, Medicare and opioid addiction.
Before the event, he was asked for his reaction to the ongoing feud between GOP presidential nominee and a Muslim family whose son was killed in combat.
“As far as I’m concerned this young Army captain, which is what I was when I was in the military, gave up his life in service to the country,” Roe said. “I can certainly see how his parents are grieving. I think this is basically inappropriate what’s going on.”
But Roe said he’s still backing Trump.
“You don’t have to agree with somebody on everything,” Roe said. “I know when Donald Trump gets elected to the U.S. presidency, I will have a chance to do some things in health care and veterans affairs that I would not be able to do if (Democrat) Hillary Clinton is president.”
Roe, who has served since 2009, faces Clint Tribble in this Thursday’s GOP primary.