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Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McDERMOTT. Thank you, Mr. Boswell.

Mr. Boswell and I saw the Vietnam war in different ways--he, by flying a helicopter and me, by being a psychiatrist dealing with people who came home. And I feel strongly that suicide prevention and the intervention must become, in military speak, a core mission of the military.

This week's Time magazine, as you see from that front page, describes military suicides as an epidemic. I would like to take $10 million out of a $19 billion fund in this amendment to go beyond the funding for existing suicide prevention services and toward modifying the culture that keeps some from seeking help. We must also note that any progress in suicide prevention will be fleeting if we don't focus on reducing the stigma associated with seeking psychological health services among our Active Duty people.

I believe the Pentagon can do more to eradicate barriers to mental health care. This means ensuring that mental health and substance abuse issues are treated as medical issues and are taken out of the realm of personnel matters. This means ensuring that seeking and receiving psychological health care does nothing to jeopardize a soldier's security clearance or prospects in his future career.

I would also urge the Pentagon to ensure that a portion of this money goes toward hiring, development and retention of top-tier psychological health talent for our military at this time. It is the tale of cost of this war that nobody calculates when we go to war. What do we do when the people come home? We forget them. We think they should pull themselves together and go back to their regular life. And many of them can't do it without some help. We need to provide it. They become desperate, figure there's no hope and take their own life. That shouldn't happen to a 24-year-old kid, man or woman, who has been in Afghanistan or Iraq giving to our country what we ask from them. Their willingness to risk the whole business of going to war has to be dealt with when they come home.

I thank the gentleman for yielding.

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