VA Secretary Promises Increased Mental Health Services For Veterans

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Department of Veterans AffairsSecretary Jim Nicholson on Monday said that the department will addmental health services at more than 100 health care facilitiesnationwide, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily,7/17). At a national forum of VA mental health experts, Nicholson saidthat the department's health care facilities have experienced problemswith increased demand for mental health services from veterans of thewars in Iraq and Afghanistan who return with conditions such aspost-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Inresponse, Nicholson said that VA will spend $37.7 million of the almost$3 billion department budget for mental health services to placepsychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals inprimary care clinics. Nicholson said that the move will allow veteransto receive tests for mild-to-moderate brain injury, a condition thatoften is difficult to detect and can appear months after veteransreturn from service. In addition, the move will provide access totreatment for veterans who do not require specialty mental healthservices, Nicholson said (AP/Washington Times, 7/17).

Nicholsonalso said the VA will hire more suicide prevention staff, providemental health services 24 hours per day, and coordinate with state andlocal agencies that assist with health care for veterans. He said,"Given the possible reluctance of some veterans to talk about emotionalproblems, increasing our mental health presence in primary caresettings will give veterans a familiar venue in which to receive carewithout actually going to an identified mental health clinic."Nicholson added, "VA is advancing its mental health program in afull-court press" (CongressDaily, 7/17).

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Related Developments

  • AlaskaNative veterans: Some Alaska Native veterans who have returned from thewars in Iraq and Afghanistan have received Native healing techniquesfor mental health conditions in addition to the conventional treatmentsprovided at VA health care facilities, the AP/Anchorage Daily News reports. The techniques include therapeutic touch, participation in Native songs and dances, and talking circles (Halpin, AP/Anchorage Daily News, 7/16).
  • NOW Resolution: Female soldiers and veterans do not receive adequate health care services, the National Organization for Women said on Sunday during a national convention, the Detroit Free Pressreports. In a resolution, NOW requested improved availability of paptests and mammograms for female soldiers and veterans, and it has askedthe military to distinguish between PTSD related to combat and PTSDrelated to sexual abuse among female soldiers (Patton, Detroit Free Press, 7/16).
  • Petition: The Dave Matthews Bandhas posted a petition on its Web site that seeks a congressionalinvestigation of cases in which Army physicians allegedly misdiagnosedsoldiers with PSTD, the San Jose Mercury Newsreports. Dave Matthews discusses the petition, which to date has 23,000signatures, in an interview on Sunday on ABC's "This Week." He said,"It just struck me as a profound injustice that someone who had givenso much of themselves and clearly showed such a quality of personalitythat the gratitude we're showing them is basically a dishonorabledischarge" (San Jose Mercury News, 7/15).

Editorial

The "military's enlightened attitude toward mental health is a positive development," a Las Vegas Suneditorial states. The editorial concludes, "As the Pentagon works tooverhaul health care for troops and veterans in the aftermath of thescandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., it isgratifying to see that mental health is a priority" (Las Vegas Sun, 7/16).

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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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