Hearing of the Military Construction Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee - Military Quality of Life
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REP. JOHN CARTER (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Last year we talked a lot about PTSD, we talked about mental health services for our military. You heard the very sad story about the marine who committed suicide while waiting just in line to get treated. I think that we all -- (inaudible) -- in an attempt to try do something about that.
And with the 15-month appointments and the other sections that are all being placed upon, there are repeated deployments in place of our military. I'd like to know how you feel about this mental health component. Are we making progress? Or the things we talked about last year -- (inaudible) -- about that.
MR. : We started this last year specifically for post- traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injuries. We did a -- (inaudible).
It ran from July to October of 2007. And specifically, the sort of senior leadership -- leaders, taking their soldiers, their subordinate leaders, and then that was driven all the way down to the lowest levels of command down to the company and team levels. But the intent was to get the leadership after talking about what were the symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But more importantly, I think what that change it did was it opened the doors so that the soldiers within those commands knew and understood that the leadership supported the program. And it helps break that stigmatism and the fear for the soldier to go forward and ask for help.
And we still see there is some stigmatisms out there to seek help, coming back, for a post-traumatic stress disorder. But it's a stigmatism that is two-sided. You know, it's one from an individual perspective where an individual perceives that if he or she asks for help, they'd see it as being weak or that they're not as effective as other soldiers.
And likewise, there's still a stigmatism out there where the individual perceives that their leadership will think what's wrong with the soldier and potentially impact them for assignments and promotions.
So -- but we've got in a number of programs out there, but the chain-teach was very effective as last year, they really drive that down to the lowest levels. And your help to this committee and that of the investment that's been put into hiring those health care professionals has also been very helpful.
MR. : PTSD -- (inaudible) -- the sergeant major hit it right on the head. It has to start from the top of leadership. And I'll comment on this focused on, hey Marines; it's okay to come forward. You know, it's okay, you know, to come forward with your families.
And I will tell you that message is throughout the Marine Corps. I just did a speaking out there. And I can tell you, you know, if you would ask me back in 2001, sir, I would tell you that, you know, it was not good, you know, to come forward because it was a sign of weakness. Now, I would tell you -- I know senior leaders in the Corps that have came forward and say, "I have PTSD." So it's really a positive change.
MR. : We have -- we work very closely with our Navy Marine Corps team or starting with our Navy Corps men that receive training and how to identify these things. In the Marine Corps, they have units embedded at the battalion level that work with the Marines in early identification.
We've -- this last fiscal year, have put 13 post-deployment health care clinics in three concentration areas and marine bases. But in addition to that, it's the education piece. And in educating the senior enlisted, or officer community, and our troops in general -- and changing that -- how it's viewed and changing that culture.
And that's probably the most challenging piece. We could throw all the money and resources that we have at it, but until we change that culture, we're not going to get very far. But having said that, I think we're on the path to doing that.
MR. : Sir, if I could add, I think the committee does a lot in helping the PTSD and we've come a long way. We can't rest on our laurels; we don't really know the effects down the road of how many troops are going to have PTSD. We're doing some great things.
I know at Ramstein, the staging facility there. Many of our wounded are coming back, you know, we try to do surveys to find out PTSD from the beginning. But we also have to follow-up to -- we've got to keep investing and researching on PTSD.
Also, we need to invest and go out and recruit and properly train mental health professionals. That's the key to make sure we have those professionals out there in our units to be there for counseling.
REP. CARTER: Well, I think, that's -- and that's good news. And one other question -- one thing that came up last year, I forget -- I think -- they -- (off mike).
Right now, we asked them to come back and give us a segment and the word we heard was check, check, check, check, check, and go home. And suggestion -- (inaudible) -- theater, their direct superiors. I'd also make an enquiry before they come back home, is any of that going on or is that being worked off and --
MR. : Well, there happens now, sir, in theatres -- there's several things that happen. One is, it's the reintegration training that helps soldiers over there that are redeploying back to home station really understand the dynamics of what they're going to go through. Coming out of a combat zone, they're forward deployed, coming back home again and reintegrating back with the family and back with their post camp -- (inaudible).
But then, it's also -- it's the reintegration assessment. There's a health assessment that's done, and specifically they sit down and they have a chance to talk with a health care provider before coming back. And then we also do a reassessment 90-120 days once they get back.
REP. EDWARDS: Thank you, Mr. Carter. Mr. Crenshaw.
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