Another Way to Support the Troops

{cross posted at scrutiny hooligans}

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAs former VA Secretary Anthony Principi has said, the Iraq war's guerilla fighting and prolonged tours are having a profound effect on the mental health of the vets coming home. "This type of war – insurgency warfare – where you don't know whether you're going to be the next victim of a car bomb or roadside bomb or (rocket-propelled grenade)... it's like fighting in Vietnam." According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 15 to 17% of Iraq veterans suffer from major depression, generalized anxiety, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. {via Operation Truth}

Meeting the mental health needs of U.S. veterans and their families is at the heart of H.R. 1358, sponsored by Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC). Rep. Hayes, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced legislation granting counselors independent practice authority under TRICARE, the military healthcare program, and in other Department of Defense programs. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) has signed on as an original cosponsor of the legislation. A Senate version of the legislation has not yet been introduced, but similar provisions are being considered for inclusion in the Defense Authorization Act.

Rep. Hayes chose to introduce the legislation because of his concern for the ability of soldiers and their families to access mental health services. Access to TRICARE-covered providers is especially worrisome in rural areas of Rep. Hayes’ district, where Guardsmen and Reservists may not live close to military treatment facilities or VA hospitals.

Currently, TRICARE and the Department of Defense do not recognize Licensed Professional Counselors. While Social Workers, Psychologists, and Marriage and Family Therapists are well-equipped to deal with the problems of our veteran populations, they are too few to handle the increasing numbers.

Veterans and their families will have easier access to mental health care if H.R. 1358 is included as part of the FY2006 Defense Authorization Act. You can help.

Click here, type in your zip code, and send a message to your Senators and Representative (especially if they're Republicans). Urge your lawmakers to include Licensed Professional Counselors in TRICARE, so veterans and their families can have better access to the mental health services so many of them need.