Senators Kennedy, Dayton and Lautenberg CosponsorIn response to a recent Army report that found more than a third of returning soldiers and Marines who served in Iraq later sought help for mental health problems, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation last week that would double funding for veterans mental health care over the next five years.According to the results of the first comprehensive screening of Iraq war veterans – almost 1,700 service members returning from the war said that they harbored thoughts of hurting themselves or that they would be better off dead. More than 250 said these thoughts happened “a lot.” Boxer said, “America’s veterans deserve the best mental health care available. Our men and women in uniform have put their lives on the line for this country – we must take care of them in return. The president’s budget falls short and our bill will correct that by adding $800 million in 2007 and $500 million for 4 more years.”Boxer’s legislation would also require the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue an annual report on their progress in implementing milestones from VA Mental Health Strategic Plan, which would include an independent assessment of progress from the Special Committee on Veterans with Serious Mental Illness, the Special Committee on Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Secretary’s Homeless Advisory Committee.Boxer said, “It is my hope that this bill will provide the resources and framework necessary to improve mental health care for the brave men and women who have so honorably served our country.” According to the Army report published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, over one in three soldiers and Marines who have served in Iraq later sought help for mental health problems.Organizations supporting the bill include AMVETS and Disabled American Veterans.
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