WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today joined a group of her Senate colleagues, including Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), in their fight to protect and improve health care for America's veterans by introducing the Helping Veterans Exposed to Trauma Act of 2006. The act offers a comprehensive approach to addressing the rising mental health needs of veterans by improving the strategies used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recognize and treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in returning troops.
"There are now more than 200,000 Americans serving overseas in difficult and dangerous circumstances to keep America safe. They have to know that we honor their service and sacrifice," said Senator Mikulski. "This means providing our service members the greatest care in protecting their health on the battlefield and at home."
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events, including military combat. A recent study indicates that PTSD is on the rise among troops returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. The bill directs the VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) to engage in a variety of activities from the battlefield to the bedside to make sure service members get the access to specialized mental health care they need and deserve.
The bill seeks to prevent the misdiagnosis of PTSD in veterans by requiring the VA to develop a clinical curriculum, protocols and practice guidelines to better screen for PTSD. It also requires the VA and DOD to jointly develop a plan to produce and distribute publications to advise clinicians on medical conditions associated with PTSD, as well as state-of-the-art PTSD diagnosis and treatment options. The bill also seeks to ensure the VA is serving veterans in the most effective manner and requires the development and implementation of a "model care" plan to identify best practices for the treatment of PTSD.
"I will continue to stand sentry over our veterans, and will work with my colleagues to make sure our veterans get the care they need," said Senator Mikulski. "Promises made to our veterans must be promises kept."