“Shinseki, Gates Address Unprecedented Forum”


WASHINGTON (Oct. 26, 2009) – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) are hosting a first-of-its-kind national summit to address the mental health care needs of America’s military personnel, families and Veterans, harnessing the programs, resources and expertise of both departments to deal with the aftermath of the battlefield.

    “This is about doing what is best for those who serve this country and using every federal, state and community asset to do it,” said Secretary Shinseki. “We’re proud of the people and the organizations who have stepped up today to make sure everyone who fought for this country gets a fighting chance for a sound mind and an independent life.”

    The summit, which opened today at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., invited mental health experts from both departments, Congress, the president’s cabinet and more than 57 non-government organizations to discuss an innovative, wide-ranging public health model for enhancing mental health for returning service members, Veterans, and their families.

    Striking down the stigma associated with the mental health risks of service in a combat zone is among the priorities of the joint VA-DoD campaign on mental health for service members, Veterans and families.

Various studies show a large incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder occurs during the lifetime of many combat Veterans.

    A final report following the summit will summarize policies, programs and practices that show promise for enhancing the well-being and care for individual service members, Veterans, and their families.  VA and DoD view mental health in returning service members and Veterans as a matter of public health and an opportunity to engage in a broad response throughout America.

    VA operates the largest mental health program in the nation.  VA has bolstered its mental health capacity to serve combat Veterans by adding thousands of new professionals to its rolls in the last four years.  The

department also has established a suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-TALK) and Web site available for online chat at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans.