VA Allocates Another $2 Million For PTSD Center

May 3, 2008

Care for our Soldiers and Veterans after deployments to warzones is something that I follow closely here at ASM. It’s something that I deal with daily in my job, and it’s something that the military and Department of Veterans Affairs is working hard on, to ensure that our Troops who return with injuries, visible or invisible, are receiving the best care possible. Due to advances in medical science, more and more Troops are surviving injuries, that even in the Viet Nam era, they might not. Along with the physical wounds, are often mental health concerns that need to be addressed as well.

After many months of news reports and subsequent congressional hearings showing that gaps continue in mental health care for Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Friday that it will be allocating an additional $2 million to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of the big roadblocks in treating our Troops who suffer from PTSD is overcoming the stigma that still remains surrounding a Soldier or Veteran seeking mental health help. Many of our Troops, still feel that if they ask for help, that their leaders will consider them weak, or they believe that if they ask for help, it will affect their careers, or even that they might not be able to obtain their security clearances. Many things are being done to combat those misconceptions, such as military leaders at all levels, stressing to their Troops, the importance of seeking counseling if necessary. The Department of Defense just announced as well, that if a Soldier seeks help with mental health issues, it won’t affect their ability to retain or obtain a security clearance. With the VA allocating more monies to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, this will hopefully open the door for more Veterans and Soldiers to obtain the help they desperately need.

According to Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, who is the chairman of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee, the additional funding came after a series of conversations between senators and the VA Secretary, Dr. James Peake.

“An increasing number of veterans are struggling with PTSD and other mental health issues, which increases th demands placed on the National Center to research new and more effective ways of treating this disorder,” Akaka said.

Over the past 5 years, the VA budget has been flat and currently staffing levels are lower than they were in 1999. Along with the Department of Defense’s announcement earlier in the week, which is designed to combat the stigma on mental health care, this will hopefully encourage more Soldiers and Veterans to seek help if they’re suffering from PTSD.

In his announcement on Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the government will no longer ask about PTSD during the security clearance process. According to Gates, one question in the process asks if a person has ever sought hel for mental health issues, is a hinderance to care.

“A year ago last February, the Army inspector general concluded that a number of Soldiers were not seeking help, in part because they felt that seeking mental health help would endanger their security clearance and perhaps their career,” Gates said during a briefing at Fort Bliss, Texas. “It is not clear, to people who answer that question, that they can answer no if they have sought help to deal with their combat stress, in general terms.”

While the military and VA health care systems aren’t perfect, our Government is dedicated to fixing the problems that exist and ensuring that our Troops and our Veterans receive the very best medical care available. No, the problems aren’t all fixed yet, but we are seeing tangible evidence that they are making strides in the right direction.

Army Times


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