APA-Sponsored Hill Briefing on Mental Health Needs of Returning Military Personnel

On February 13, a standing room only crowd gathered in the U.S. Capitol to hear the APA sponsored briefing entitled, "PTSD, TBI & Post Deployment Adjustment: Addressing Challenges of Returning Military Personnel." The briefing was cosponsored by Congressman Bill Young (R-FL) and Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA). Congressman Young who is Dean of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, now serving in his 19th term, and the Ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, was instrumental in the establishment of the military's Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP). Congressman Farr who is Vice Chair of the Military Construction Veterans Administration Appropriations Subcommittee has played a critical role in increasing funding for veterans health care and mental health care with historic increases this year totaling $12 billion. The briefing included a panel that addressed personal challenges and professional approaches to treating wounded warriors dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and issues in readjusting to civilian life following deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Cynthia Belar, Ph.D., APA Executive Director of Education, welcomed everyone and introduced the three panelists, Captain Aaron Krenz, Sergeant Patrick Campbell, and David Riggs, Ph.D. Captain Aaron Krenz of the Minnesota National Guard and an Iraq veteran, highlighted common experiences with post deployment for Reservists and National Guard Members. Captain Krenz also discussed his role as Reintegration Officer in the Minnesota National Guard's "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" program, which focuses on assisting returning guardsmen in their reintegration back to their home communities. Next, Sergeant Patrick Campbell, Legislative Director, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and an Iraq War veteran discussed his personal experiences with deployment and post-deployment mental health issues. Sgt. Campbell noted that the IAVA was founded in 2004 and is the nation's first and largest group dedicated to the troops and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civilians who support them. Dave Riggs, Ph.D. discussed the Center for Deployment Psychology (also pictured, Captain Krenz and Sgt. Campbell)The briefing concluded with David Riggs, PhD, Director of the Department of Defense Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP), Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) who spoke about the importance of and current approaches to training mental health professionals and other health specialists in meeting the mental health needs of returning service members and explained the work of the CDP. Dr. Riggs explained that the CDP is a new tri-service training consortium designed to better prepare for unmet mental and behavioral health needs of service members returning from combat and operational environments and of their families. The Center, which is housed at USUHS, is the coordinating center for a network of military internship training sites at 10 regional Department of Defense health facilities nationwide to train military and civilian psychologists (and eventually other health professionals).

Finally, Congressman Farr, who stopped by briefly, spoke of the importance of meeting the mental and behavioral health needs of returning military personnel and their families. The audience of mostly congressional staff, the news media, and other military organizations were clearly moved by the powerful personal comments made by Capt. Krenz, Sgt. Campbell and Congressman Farr, and were energized by the work that is being done by Dr. Riggs and the Center for Deployment Psychology.