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march/april 2008

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A Committee In Motion

During the past year, the PTSD/Substance Abuse Committee continued its advocacy efforts with Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies and commissions to initiate, improve, and expand the mental health and substance abuse resources and programs for our nation’s veterans as directed by Committee Resolutions PTSD 1-95, PTSD 2-95, PTSD 3-95, PTSD 5-95, PTSD 4-99, PTSD 1-05, and PTSD 2-05.

In doing so, the committee also has focused on raising awareness about PTSD, TBI, MST, suicide, and related mental health and substance abuse issues. We do this through testimony on Capitol Hill, public presentations, educational outreach, media interviews, and through partnerships with other veteran-focused organizations such as the Veterans of Modern Warfare and the Student Veterans of America.

In addition, the following items were passed by the 110th Congress following advocacy efforts by this committee and its chair during the past year:

  1. The Josh Omvig Suicide Prevention Bill
  2. The extension of the two-year window (now extended to five years) for VA sign-up by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two new tri-fold publications were produced under the direction of the committee during the past year. The first, “PTSD: What Every Veteran and Every Veteran’s Family Should Know,” was completed in time for the 25th anniversary of The Wall celebration in November, and was distributed at the VVA health information tent on the Mall during Veterans Day activities.

The second tri-fold, “Suicide Risk and Prevention—Assistance and Resources,” is being printed and will be made available for distribution shortly.

PTSD seminars were presented by the committee chair at VVA’s Joint Region 3 and Virginia State Council Convention in May 2007, at the California State Council meeting in January, and at the Texas State Council meeting in February.

Two committee members continue to serve and represent VVA on the VA’s Substance Abuse Quality Assurance and Research Initiative Executive Committee. VVA’s PTSD/SA Committee chair represents VVA on several other government committees, including the VA’s Committee for the Care of the Severely Mentally Ill, the VA’s Mental Health Quality Enhancement Research Initiative Executive Committee and its Depression Subcommittee, the VA’s South Central Mental Illness Research and Education Clinical Center, the National Leadership Forum on Behavioral Health-Criminal Justice Services CMHS National GAINS Center, and the Steering Committee for the National Trauma Campaign of the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

None of the accomplishments noted above would have been possible without the support, encouragement, and help of PTSD/SA Committee members and the cooperation of the VVA Women Veterans, Homeless Veterans, Health Care, Government Affairs, and Veterans Incarcerated Committees, along with the VVA Government Relations staff, the VVA Communications Department, and the VVA officers, Board members, and staff.

Committee members: Tom Berger, Chair; Fr. Phil Salois, Vice Chair; Randy Bane, Pat Bessigano, Liz Cannon, Tony Catapano, Bob Corsa, Marsha Four, Sandy Miller, Wayne Reynolds, Ed Ryan, Jim Shott, and Dan Stenvold. Special Advisers: Kathy Andras, Kathleen Aylward-Barnes, Suzanne Blohm-Weber, Frances Cartier, Donna-Marie Crowell, Felicea Catapano, Dee Hagge, Paul Harrigan, Diane Kuhn-Nicholson, Mary Miller, and Nancy Switzer. Staff Liaison: Mokie Pratt Porter. Members in Memoriam: Randy “Doc” Barnes, Steve Mason, and Linda Van Devanter.


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