Healing the Invisible Wounds of War: Improved mental health care tops 2012 legislative priorities for Wounded Warrior Project

Washington, DC—Some of the toughest barriers warriors face are associated with the invisible wounds of war. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other invisible wounds can negatively affect a warrior’s readjustment in many ways – impairing health and well-being, compounding the challenges of obtaining employment, and limiting earning capacity.

Dawn Halfaker, a Wounded Warrior, CEO of Halfaker, and President of the Board of Directors for The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), recently presented WWP’s 2012 policy priorities before the Committees on Veterans Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives. Improved quality and access to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) mental health care was at the top of the list. The WWP, a non-profit organization whose mission is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors, maintains an annual legislative agenda that focuses on identifying the major barriers that hold back Wounded Warriors and offers credible solutions.

During her testimony, Dawn noted that although current budget numbers suggesting record funding levels across key VA programs, these programs must produce results. “We certainly acknowledge that VA has made real efforts in recent years to improve mental health care, and that there are many very able, caring mental health professionals in the system,” Dawn said. “But too many warriors are falling through the cracks and the gaps between policy and practice remain too wide.”

The WWP recently conducted an annual survey of 5,800 Wounded Warriors and more than 2,300 responded with some eye opening figures. An alarming 62 percent indicated they were experiencing current depression, but when asked if they had had difficulty getting mental health care, put off getting such care or did not get the care they needed—more than 36 percent of the respondents answered “yes.”

Wounded Warriors face significant shortcomings in both a lack of timely access to mental care and getting the kind mental care they need with an appropriate intensity of care. As a result, many warriors are dropping out of treatment altogether. During her testimony Dawn noted, “To its credit, VA has embraced an all-out effort to end homelessness. That same passion and effort is needed to ensure that timely, effective mental health care is available for all returning warriors who need it.”

To view Dawn’s testimony, please visit: http://1.usa.gov/GE8q8D (Dawn's testimony begins at 66:25) 

To read Dawn’s testimony on behalf of the WWP, please visit: http://1.usa.gov/GIQdC3