Washington, D.C. (February 12, 2015) – Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) joined President Obama, veterans, and mental health advocates today at the White House for the signing of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (SAV Act), which will help provide better support to injured veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
WWP is encouraged to see overwhelmingly bipartisan progress in efforts to improve mental health care and services and suicide prevention programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD). WWP worked closely with members of Congress to include provisions that authorize the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists, and to establish a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning service members with accessing VA mental health care services. WWP has seen the success that warrior mentors and community outreach can have through our Peer Support Program and Peer-Facilitated Support Groups; with 1,320 peer mentors, 1,277 warriors with mentors, and 222 warriors in 15 Peer-Facilitated Support Groups, we know that in many cases, it takes a veteran to help a veteran.
“Now, the long-term conversation about the mental health needs of our veterans needs to happen,” said Charlie Abell, executive vice president of Policy and Government Affairs at WWP. “The passage of the Clay Hunt SAV Act is an important start; with this bill signing, we take critically important steps in removing the barriers that lead warriors to drop out of therapy or prevent them from receiving the care they need and have earned. But this does not mean our job is done; our work is only just beginning.”
Wounded Warrior Project now asks lawmakers and administrators to focus on prominent challenges that lie ahead in the following areas:
“We must continue to prioritize mental health, and WWP remains committed to working with Congress, the VA, and the DoD to combat the scourge of mental health injuries that face this generation of injured veterans,” affirmed Abell.
Since 2010, WWP has been using the information gathered from its Annual Alumni Survey to refine its existing programs, develop new initiatives, and identify gaps in existing veteran services and support. This year’s data again showed that mental health conditions were among the most frequently reported health problems of Alumni: 75 percent reported experiencing PTSD, 67 percent reported depression, and 64 percent reported experiencing anxiety. Forty-three percent of Alumni reported experiencing a TBI. Overall, the survey results indicate that, for many, the effects of mental and emotional health problems can be even more serious than the effects of physical problems.