Rep. Jim Moran, (D-8) joined with Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) and Veterans for America to introduce legislation, the Lane Evans Mental Health and Benefits Act, that will provide U.S. servicemen and veterans better access to treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Supporting the troops means not only encouraging them during battle but also caring for those who return with the scars of war, said Moran. The crisis at Walter Reed Hospital makes clear that we are failing to fully support our troops. No amount of body armor can shield a soldier from the horrors of war. Only professional treatment can heal the mental wounds our brave men and women receive on the battlefield. This legislation seeks to prevent soldiers who need treatment from slipping through the cracks and to provide more uniform coverage for all who serve our country in the Global War on Terror.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault.
Symptoms of the disease include a repeated “re-living” of the event through flashbacks, nightmares and recurring memories, a lack of interest in what used to be normal activities which is accompanied by feelings of detachment, hopelessness, emotional numbing and reduced expression of moods. PTSD sufferers also are prone to irritability and outbursts of anger, they often have difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Many experience “survivors guilt,” high levels of anxiety and stress and severe panic attacks.
PTSD often prevents returning soldiers, veterans and their families from living a normal life. A recent study from the National Center for PTSD reports that over half of PTSD sufferers had a lifetime diagnosis of alcoholism and over a third had a lifetime drug abuse diagnosis. In some cases, PTSD has led to suicide.
The Lane Evans Mental Health and Improvement Benefits Act makes five significant changes to positively impact mental health services for the nations active military and veterans, including extending VA Mental Health care, requiring face-to-face medical exams, establishing a GWOT registry to track health care data and requiring equal transition services for Guardsmen and Reservists.
Troops retuning from Iraq and Afghanistan are being treated by a broken system that ignores the unique needs specific to this generation of service members,” said John Terzano of Veterans for America. “The data collected and systemic changes included in Lane Evans Health and Benefits Improvement Acts are essential first steps to creating adequate and comprehensive programs that our service members and veterans are in desperate need of.
The bill has 38 cosponsors.On the Senate side, Senators Barack Obama and Olympia Snowe are championing the companion legislation.