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Defense Authorization Bill Amended to Include PTSD Mental Health Screening Program

June 25, 2009
Press Release

Defense Authorization Bill Amended to Include PTSD Mental Health Screening Program

Washington, D.C. – Representatives Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Michael McMahon (NY-13), and Harry Teague (NM-2) successfully amended the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Authorization Bill to create a post-deployment mental health screening program. In 2008, 143 Army soldiers committed suicide – the highest rate since the Army began keeping record in 1980. According to the June 2007 report of the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health, 38% of soldiers, 31% of Marines and 49% of National Guard members report psychological symptoms 90-120 days after returning from deployment.

The amendment, adopted by voice vote, would require the Defense Department to conduct a demonstration project at two military installations – active duty and reserve – to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of providing face-to-face post-deployment mental health screening between a soldier and a mental health provider. The two year project will include a combat stress evaluation conducted by a qualified mental health professional within 120 to 180 days after the date the soldier return from combat theater, as well as follow-up phone calls over the next two years.

“All U.S. forces should receive top quality mental health care. It is that simple. It is why I of have introduced the Sgt. Jonathan Schulze Military Mental Health Services Improvement Act and offer this amendment as a powerful initial step in that direction. Through this program, we will be able to identify the best practices for the most effective, mandatory post-deployment screening, suicide prevention and mental health care possible,” said DeLauro, who spoke on the House floor in support of the amendment (click here to view). “We have no excuse for failing the soldiers who have given their nation everything.”

“Veterans of Vietnam knew long before the rest of America that there are some injuries that are not visible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, PTSD and other war-related mental illnesses were not given their due attention until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where only now we are committing the necessary resources to providing long-term mental care for our brave troops who otherwise would fall victim to a failed system. This amendment is a victory for our troops and their families who share the burden of mental illness caused by war. I am proud to join with Congresswoman DeLauro, a tireless advocate for improving the mental health of our troops, in making important improvements to this process. The only way to honor our service members is to care for them after their service, and this is a very good start,” said Courtney (click here to watch his floor statement in support of the amendment).

“The number of soldiers and Veterans who have taken their own lives is alarmingly high, and there are so many service men and women who are currently suffering and need help.” said Rep. Michael E. McMahon. “One to one mental health screenings with a certified mental health professional is the least that we can offer to our service men and women who sacrifice so much for this country. This pilot program is the first step in providing the comprehensive mental health care our service men and women deserve.”

“Our veterans need and deserve the best care our nation can offer and that includes mental health care,” said Congressman Harry Teague, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “This program is a step in the right direction to provide mental health assessments for service members so we can begin learning the most effective ways to stem the tide of tragic incidents associated with PTSD."

All four of the Representatives have been strong advocates for strengthening post-deployment mental health screening programs and the amendment reflects and pulls from legislation they have introduced.

According to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, in fiscal year 2008, of the 400,304 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom who received care at VA medical centers and clinics, forty-five percent (178,493) had a possible mental health diagnosis, and twenty-three (92,998) percent had possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).