Heather O’Beirne Kelly, PhD, hails from a family with multiple generations of career military officers, all of them combat veterans. Her father is a Naval Academy
graduate and retired nuclear submariner. One grandfather was
a three-star admiral and Navy pilot; the other was a four-star
general in the Army.
Although Kelly has never served, “I not only have the
deepest admiration and respect for those who serve but also an
understanding of the families who get left behind,” she says.
Now she has a way to work professionally on the issue she
cares about so much personally: She heads APA’s new Military
and Veterans’ Policy team.
The cross-directorate team hopes to bring new attention to
military issues and how psychology can bring its expertise to
bear on those issues. The team’s overall goal is to work at the
federal level to promote the health and well-being of military
personnel, veterans and their families and communities.
To William J. Strickland, member-at-large of APA’s Board
of Directors and a past president of APA’s Div. 19 (Society for
Military Psychology), the creation of the Military and Veterans’
Policy team signals APA’s growing — and much-needed —
commitment to members of the armed forces both past and
“We’ve been at war for over a decade, with an all-volunteer
Army that’s been deployed again and again,” says Strickland.
“Any time you can get a critical mass of people focusing on
something in a targeted way, that’s beneficial.”
Of course, says Kelly, APA has a long history of working on
military and veterans’ issues.
In the past, staff from APA’s Science, Education, Public
Interest and Practice directorates as well as the executive
office have focused on such areas as training and professional
support for psychologists working with military and veteran
populations and funding and implementation of psychological
research related to the missions of the U.S. Department of
Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
They’ve also worked on behalf of military children; survivors
of military sexual assault; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
service members; and other subpopulations.
While these staff collaborated informally when needed,
says Kelly, the new Military and Veterans’ Policy team aims to
take a more coordinated, proactive approach to the vast range
of relevant policy issues staff are working on throughout
The team will also help ensure that APA does a better job of
communicating its commitment to the military and veterans’
community, says Kelly. “Part of my job is just making sure our
own members — as well as the military, our veterans and the
New initiative brings a more coordinated, holistic
approach to APA’s work on military issues.
BY REBECCA A. CLAY