Helping veterans and their families
Government agencies and community organizations must build bridges to assist service members,
veterans and their families, said APA members at a February congressional hearing.
BY DIANE ELMORE, PHD, MPH,
AND TARYN PATTERSON, MS
With many of the military personnel who have served in
Afghanistan and Iraq home or slated to
return soon, the VA and community-based organizations must continue to
work together to help them transition to
civilian life, said APA members at a Feb.
27 congressional hearing of the House
Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.
Two APA members, M. David Rudd,
PhD, of the University of Utah’s National
Center for Veterans Studies, and George
Ake III, PhD, of the Duke University
Medical Center and the National Child
Traumatic Stress Network, testified at the
invitation of Subcommittee Chair Rep.
Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N. Y.).
Rudd highlighted ways in which the
mental health community can collaborate
with the faith-based community and
with college and university campuses
to support veterans. Evidence suggests
that faith-based institutions can have an
important role. A case in point: a 2011
Pew Research Center survey found that
veterans who attend religious services at
least once a week are more likely to have
easy re-entry experiences than those who
never attend services.
Colleges and universities can also
help veterans readjust, said Rudd. In a
nationwide survey of student veterans he
conducted in 2011, Rudd found that 35
percent reported severe anxiety, 24 percent
experienced severe depression and 46
APA member Dr. M. David Rudd, center, testified before the House Veterans Affairs
Subcommittee on Health on the need to help members of the military transition to
civilian life. He is joined, from left to right, by Chaplain Dr. John Morris, Dr. Shelley
MacDermid Wadsworth and APA member Dr. George Ake III.
percent reported significant symptoms of
post-traumatic stress disorder.
“With more returning service
members taking advantage of the post-
9/11 GI Bill, college campuses are a great
setting for providing the mental health
and academic supports necessary for
successful reintegration,” said Rudd.
He said that there are several efforts
under way aimed at helping veterans
on campus, including VA-sponsored
outreach projects. In addition, Rudd’s
National Center for Veterans Studies is
launching a national higher education
consortium focused on student veterans.
Ake highlighted the critical role
family members can play in successfully
reintegrating service members. He urged
policymakers to consider the needs of
the nearly 2 million children who have
parents in the military, many of whom
are dealing with multiple deployments,
parental war injuries, grief, loss and
other stresses. To help these families, the
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
is collaborating with the Department
of Defense, the VA, the Department of
Education, Sesame Workshop, Major
League Baseball and other groups to
provide trauma-informed evidence-based
treatment, services and resources. n
Dr. Diane Elmore is associate executive
director and Taryn Patterson is a doctoral
policy intern in APA’s Public Interest
Government Relations Office.