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Of the 2.3 million military men and women who have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in the last decade, more than 600,000 of them may be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TMI), depression, or similar illnesses. Rep. Tim Murphy, who is co-chair of the Mental Health Caucus and a clinical psychologist, has been working to ensure our soldiers' physical and behavioral health needs are met when they return home.
On Thursday and Friday this week, Congressman Murphy delivered a guest lecture on military mental health issues to local nursing and psychology students at Duquesne and Waynesburg Universities. Murphy, who began his career as a clinical psychologist, now serves as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve Medical Service Corps where he helps wounded warriors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland recover from PTSD, TMI and depression.
In his discussion, Murphy discussed methodologies the military is using to reduce combat stress for soldiers. Murphy also explained what caregivers can do to support soldiers with PTSD. He noted that in the military there is a shortage of qualified mental health professionals, which may leave some veterans without the intensive therapy that can best help them to fully recover.
Over the past years, Congressman Murphy supported bills to benefit the health and safety of our servicemen and women. Most recently, Murphy authored the "Invisible Wounds of War' amendment in the 2012 Defense bill. This language directs the Surgeons General of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to report to Congress on military mental health staffing needs and make recommendations on how to recruit additional medical specialty and behavioral health professionals with existing clinical experience. Murphy highlighted the urgent need of staffing mental health slots, noting that up to twenty percent of mental health positions in the Navy go unfilled.
Murphy has also sponsored several bills to aid homeless, at-risk and unemployed veterans. H.R. 674, the Putting Soldiers Back To Work Act, gives employers sliding-scale tax credits for hiring a veteran with service-connected disabilities or for hiring a veteran who has been seeking employment for more than one month. The legislation also established a three-year employment retraining assistance program for up to 100,000 unemployed veterans who enroll in a technical school or community college to find work in a high-demand occupation.
The Caring for Our Homeless Vets Act (H.R. 3352), which Murphy co-authored, allows taxpayers to easily donate their own money for a new fund to exclusively help veterans and give them the dignity of returning to work. Murphy supported the bipartisan Veterans HIRE at Home Act (H.R. 4115) to allow service members to translate the skills developed in military service into good paying civilian jobs. Right now, there are several barriers facing trained military medics who want to enter the civilian healthcare sector. Through this bill, states can reform outdated certification procedures so a veteran's military training is taken into account when seeking work as an EMT, registered nurse, or commercial truck driver. Murphy met with his fellow members of the Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health over the summer to discuss the possibility of implementing national federal standards for military medics who want to become EMTs.
Individuals with friends or family members returning from battle are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the warning signs of PTSD and offer to listen and be supportive. To learn more about the signs and symptoms of PTSD, TMI or depression, or to search for help, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs official website dedicated to PTSD and related disorders or contact the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255 Ext. 1.
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