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Government News
Bill Would Improve PTSD Services For Soldiers, Vets Exposed to Trauma
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 9 page 25-51

APA, the National Mental Health Association, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill support a comprehensive bill to help active-duty military members and veterans exposed to trauma receive the mental health care they may need.

Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced the bill in the House of Representatives last month.

"The mental health, just like the physical health, of our service members and veterans deserves to be treated as a top priority for us here in Congress," Lane told his colleagues, according to a committee press release.

APA Medical Director James H. Scully Jr., M.D., commended Evans last month for sponsoring the bill, titled the Comprehensive Assistance for Veterans Exposed to Traumatic Stressors Act of 2005 (HR 1588).

"Your leadership on this critical issue will spur other members of Congress to action on this issue," Scully said in a letter to Evans.

Scully also praised "the bill's comprehensive approach to breaking down barriers to early diagnosis and treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder."

For example, to facilitate the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) planning for the mental health needs of veterans, the bill would require that the Department of Defense (DoD) share with the VA mental health information obtained from health surveys that soldiers completed before and after their deployment overseas.

The legislation also would also require that the two departments share their mental health expertise and resources to do the following:

APA also commended Evans for authorizing additional resources in the legislation to address "the wide gap between the VA's capacity to provide mental health services to veterans and their growing mental health needs," according to the April letter (see page 25).

The legislation also calls on the VA to develop a plan to increase veterans' access to specialized PTSD care by using readjustment counseling centers, telemedicine, and community-based outpatient clinics.

A key provision in the bill would extend the period of time that combat veterans are entitled to services in the VA health care system from two years to five years.

The text of the Comprehensive Assistance for Veterans Exposed to Traumatic Stressors Act of 2005 can be accessed online at<http://thomas.loc.gov> by searching on the name or bill number, HR 1588.

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