Last week, VA and DoD hosted the first joint summit to discuss military and veterans' mental health. AMVETS leaders were on hand alongside leaders from the nation's top military and veterans' organizations, health care practitioners, and other public interest groups to discuss an issue that affects veterans of all conflicts, past and present.
AMVETS Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof took part in the summit and viewed it as a critical first step in addressing a broad range of issues facing today's war fighters, but acknowledged that both VA and DoD have a long way to go on issues such as suicide-prevention and disclosure procedures.
"It was easy to understand all points of views on medical treatments and disclosure information to superiors," said Roof. "On one hand you want service members to feel comfortable reaching out for help and not worrying they will be deemed non-deployable or discharged, but on the other hand you could see the validity in DoD’s concerns about mentally unstable individuals not being ready for a combat zone, or posing a danger to themselves or others in their units."
During the week, summit participants heard from a variety of experts on the topic presenting a variety of potential solutions and candid commentary on the problems facing today's affected service members.
One of the most memorable presentations during the week came from IAVA Chief Legislative Counsel Patrick Campbell, who for the first time publicly shared his personal struggles with combat stress. Campbell acknowledged that it had taken him years since returning from Iraq to come to terms with many of his experiences, and he pulled no punches in criticizing VA and DoD processes for handling situations like his.
From the week's symposium, VA and DoD plan to compile a comprehensive report that will outline critical issues that remain within the military and veterans' communities and new ways to address these challenges in an effort to develop a public health model for mental health care throughout all communities.
This week, VA is hosting another summit outlining the department's plan to eliminate veterans' homelessness, which will once again touch on the topic of mental health and mental health care. American Veteran will be on hand tomorrow during the summit. Check back for updates.