Wednesday, July 23, 2014

APA Urges to Members to Contact Congress to Support Veterans Bill

With the Ensuring Veterans Resiliency Act (EVRA) facing an uphill battle in Congress, APA is strongly urging members to contact their House and Senate representatives to register their support for this important bipartisan legislation. Among the legislation's key goals is mitigating the chronic shortage of psychiatrists in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) by implementing a pilot program in which a limited number of psychiatrists would be recruited into long-term employment at the VHA that would include competitive medical school loan-forgiveness incentives.

This legislation is crucially needed. As a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Veterans Affairs found, most veterans do not receive adequate treatment for mental illnesses in a timely fashion. Each year, approximately 8,000 veterans die by suicide, and several studies place the rate of PTSD in returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at approximately 40%. Veterans widely experience anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders.

In an email to members, APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., emphasized that "APA’s grassroots and communications strategy has yielded fruitful results to date, but more work is needed. If you haven’t already contacted your elected officials through one of our Action Alerts, I urge you to do so as soon as possible! If your District Branch hasn’t already begun to take action, I urge you to act now!  Jason Young, APA’s Chief of Communications, and Jeff Regan in APA’s Department of Government Relations are standing by and happy to assist you.

He notes as well that APA has begun "a comprehensive grassroots and communications strategy to build support for EVRA and push for its inclusion in any final conference agreement that reforms the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) delivers health care." One result of that strategy was publication of an op-ed column written by APA and the National Alliance on Mental Illness that appeared in the publication Stars and Stripes, which can be read here.

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