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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chair, as Co-Chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, I have spent the last eleven years I have fought for patients with brain injuries, both on and off the battlefield. We all know that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and while we made great progress on ensuring our soldiers have the best care, there is still more work to be done.

An Institute of Medicine study was released last week about the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on our troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am particularly concerned with the report's analysis of the Department of Defense's efforts to identify and treat PTSD. The 2010 Defense Authorization required this study as well as mandated the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to report a response to this report the relevant Committees by no later than January 1, 2013.

As this report shows, there is still more work to be done when it comes to caring for our soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The report notes that the prevalence of PTSD in 2.6 million service members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan is at a staggering rate of 13% to 20%. This statistic points to the importance of finding better ways to identify and treat this ailment. The report's many recommendations include the need for the Department of Defense to collect data on the delivery and effectiveness of all prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitative services currently in use to determine best practices, as well as ensuring that PTSD screening occurs once a year. The report also points out barriers to care faced by returning soldiers to accessing care.

It is clear that the Department of Defense must do more to ensure that soldiers who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are identified, the effectiveness of treatments are tracked, and that returning soldiers suffering from PTSD are encouraged to come out of the shadows. Making sure that funding for Defense Health programs and research into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder addresses the concerns raised in the IOM report is extremely important. This year's Defense Appropriations bill provides $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and $30 million for suicide prevention and outreach programs. We must continue to make the investments in these critical areas to ensure the health and safety of all our returning soldiers.
I hope that going forward, these recommendations will be factored into the research and funding undertaken by the Department of Defense-Defense Health Programs. With continued work and adequate funding for research and treatment for PTSD and TBI, I know our service members will be able to attain improved health outcomes, live more productive and satisfying lives, and ultimately, save our nation millions of dollars in future care costs.

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