The Blaze: Congress Reacts to Military Mental and Brain Health Issues
By Montgomery J. Granger
May 07, 2014
When U.S. senators from two political parties come together to introduce legislation, without argument or hesitation, one should take notice.
In the current climate, when political opposites attract one might think money, prestige, or influence are involved, but in the case of the bill to improve military mental health evaluations for service members, Sen.s Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), no such benefits await them. They appear to have only altruistic and patriotic motivation for seeing that our heroes receive the comprehensive medical attention they need and deserve.
The Medical Evaluations Parity for Service Members Act of 2014 (S. 2231 or MEPS Act,) states that before anyone can become enlisted or receive a commission in the armed forces of the United States they shall receive a “mental health assessment” that will be a “baseline for any subsequent mental health evaluations.”
This would bring mental health and “brain health” issues to parity with the physical evaluations conducted prior to admittance into the military.
If passed, the law would also include a comprehensive physical and mental and brain health evaluation when the service member comes off of at least 180 days of active duty or separates from the service. This would include screening for Traumatic Brain Injury, recently found to cause most instances of Post Traumatic Stress, which could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. TBI is a “brain hurt” as opposed to a “mind hurt” issue that is more physiologic than mental.
We are finally addressing TBI issues, the signature issues of our returning heroes. Brain injury is not synonymous with “mental illness,” and the treatments for mental illness are often detrimental to TBI, hence the distinction is very important.
It is estimated that over 400,000 Global War on Terror veterans suffer from TBI, and most go undiagnosed and untreated, which leads to PTS and then possible PTSD.
Veteran and former U.S. Army Military Police non-commissioned officer, Curtis Armstrong was given a routine exit physical which didn’t connect the dots between his symptoms of memory loss, headaches, and thought process problems, since identified as being associated with TBI.
We can all imagine that if you’re not looking for something, and don’t know what it looks like even if you were, you’re not going to find anything. That’s exactly what happened to Curtis, and hundreds of thousands of his comrades.
The Resurrecting Lives Foundation, founded by Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, has been trying to gain the attention of politicians in Washington, D.C., for several years now. They have a panel of experts and have been advocating for the establishment of proper screening and treatment for veterans with TBI. Moving forward, the most encouraging event to date has been the MEPS Act introduction in the Senate.
When I inquired as to the catalyst for Sen. Portman’s introduction of the MEPS bill his staff replied:
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