Members of Congress Call for Increased Mental Health Program Funding for Soldiers and Veterans

Written by Imperial Valley News   
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Washington, DC – Today, Reps. Michael E. McMahon and Thomas J. Rooney will be calling for an increase in mental health funding in the FY 2010 budget for the Department of Defense, with a large veteran presence expected to be in attendance to support Reps. McMahon’s and Rooney’s recommendation.

This request is in support of the funding levels recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in April, but obviously has taken on new importance given the tragic events that occurred yesterday at Camp Liberty in Iraq. Combat stress has been a growing issue for military leaders and families as fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken its toll on the soldiers, many of whom have been deployed three, four, or even five times.

This bipartisan letter request comes at a time when 2008 reported the highest level of army suicide within the military since 1980. And with the onslaught of returning service members, 2009’s army suicide rate is projected to further surpass the 2008 level. Yesterday’s shootings at Camp Liberty of five of our nation’s heroes cannot be repeated. This increase in funding for mental health programs along with a comprehensive post-deployment program to psychologically screen all of our service men and women will go a long way to protecting our returning veterans. This increase in funding would make it possible for our newly returning service men and women to take care of their physical as wells as psychological injuries through a program of mental health assessments and treatments.

Reps. McMahon and Rooney, along with almost fifty of their colleagues in the House, will be sending a letter to Subcommittee on Defense Chairman John Murtha and Ranking Member Bill Young tomorrow urging the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to increase overall funding for mental health programs by $300 million in the FY10 defense budget. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended this figure along with spending over $47 billion on healthcare on April 6, 2009.

Reps. McMahon and Rooney, along with Rep. Thomas Perriello, also recently joined together to introduce H.R. 1308, the Veterans Mental Health Screening and Assessment Act of 2009, which will require mandatory, confidential mental health screenings for deploying service members.

“The mental health of our soldiers and Veterans has been of great importance to me for many years,” said Rep. Michael E. McMahon. “After thousands of brave men and women were sent to war after the tragic events of 9/11, which directly impacted my district, I have felt the overwhelming need to fight for better rights for our service men and women and our returning Veterans. If we do not provide adequate mental health care to our soldiers and Veterans we are failing the very people who have never let us down.”


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