Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Report Faulting Mental Health Services at Fort Drum

February 13, 2008

“I am deeply concerned by the findings in this report. It is simply unacceptable that 10th Mountain Division soldiers who have recently returned from Iraq have to wait for up to two months for mental health care appointments. Not only has the Department of Defense failed to provide Fort Drum and other military installations with adequate mental health care resources, but there is also a persistent stigma within the military that discourages our servicemembers from seeking and receiving the mental health care that many of them need. With so many units serving multiple combat tours, this problem is only becoming more acute, and it must be addressed urgently.

I strongly urge the Army to adopt and fully implement the measures like those passed last year in my Heroes At Home legislation to improve pre and post-deployment screening processes for our troops, help families struggling to take care of a loved one with brain and psychological injuries, and expand access to much needed care. In addition to these important programs, I will be introducing several new measures in the months to come to further aid our servicemembers. I am looking forward to the cooperation and support of the Army in this process, so we can ensure that the men and women of the 10th Mountain Division and all of those who have served our nation with courage and dedication, are provided with the support and assistance they need and deserve. This does not just mean superb care for their visible wounds, but for the invisible ones like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury as well.”

A new report by Veterans For America cites the inadequacies of an overburdened system that failed to address the mental health needs of their servicemembers. The draft report, which is based on interviews with a dozen soldiers and the mental health providers at Fort Drum, points to a number of factors that combined to contribute to these problems. Among the issues listed are wait times of up to a month for psychological services, understaffing, a reliance on questionnaires to identify soldiers in need of treatment, and in some cases the tendency of leadership to be indifferent to claims of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Senator Clinton has long fought to ensure that our servicemembers and veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned through their service to our country. The Senator’s Heroes At Home legislation focuses on the urgent need to address brain and psychological injuries, and the processes by which they are screened and treated. The legislation also seeks to improve transitions from DoD to VA care, and works to ensure that wounded servicemembers receive the needed disability benefits that are entitled to. Several of Senator Clinton’s measures were enacted into law earlier this year as part of the FY 2008 Department of Defense Authorization Act.

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