Over the weekend, President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, a bill that includes two amendments authored by Congressman André Carson (D-IN).
Congressman Carson's first amendment, which contains provisions of his Service Members Mental Health Screening Act, requires the Department of Defense to take into account health records from past deployments and military activity during mandatory pre- and post-deployment mental health assessments. Under the current law, screenings from past deployments are not shared between units, inhibiting comprehensive understanding of the mental health challenges facing deployed service men and women.
The amendment was inspired by Indianapolis resident Gregg Keesling, whose son, Army Specialist Chancellor Keesling, committed suicide in June 2009 while on his second deployment in Iraq. Specialist Keesling had been previously deployed with another unit where he suffered from mental health issues. These issues were not considered in the assessment he received prior to his second deployment.
"It changes the lack of information-sharing that currently exists," Mr. Keesling said of Congressman Carson's amendment. "If this was in place prior to my son's second deployment, it could have saved his life just like it will for so many service members who will be deploying in the future."
"We provide some of the best health care in the world to our service members who are wounded in combat. Sadly, we can't say the same thing about those suffering from invisible wounds," Congressman Carson said. "These brave men and women make extraordinary sacrifices and face unimaginable challenges. They deserve to receive the best possible mental health care, where and when they need it."
Congressman Carson's second amendment is the Military Families Financial Preparedness Act, which seeks to put military families on a path towards long-term financial stability upon returning to civilian life. Under this legislation, mandatory pre-separation counseling sessions will include information on budgets, saving, credit, and mortgages and will help veterans and their spouses to create a long-term financial plan.
"Our men and women in uniform have served our nation bravely, both at home and abroad. Unfortunately, for many this service around the world means that they have never had an opportunity to find reasonably priced housing, manage day-to-day bills associated with living on a civilian income, or have yet to start saving for their futures. This puts both veterans and their families at a significant risk of foreclosure and unmanageable debt. They deserve to be better prepared for the demands of civilian life."
"I'm proud to have authored these bills, and I believe they offer strong improvements to the programs that serve our military families," said Congressman Carson. "We need to continually find ways to build up and protect these brave men and women, and I am resolved to keep fighting on their behalf."