Congresswoman Shea-Porter Sponsors Bill to Improve Veterans Health Benefits

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has become an original co-sponsor of bi-partisan legislation to substantially improve mental health benefits for veterans, especially those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).

The Lane Evans Mental Health and Benefits Improvement Act will extend the window in which returning soldiers can obtain free health care, screenings, and referrals from two to five years. Symptoms of PTSD and other mental health problems do not always surface immediately, and so the legislation will increase the likelihood that veterans get the services they need.

"Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a serious problem that our country needs to confront," said Shea-Porter. "Our soldiers are staying in Iraq too long and being sent back too quickly, which increases the occurrence of PTSD in our troops. Like many Vietnam vets, a large number of those serving today don't get the treatment they need. Honoring the troops means honoring our commitment to care for them."

The bill would also require the Department of Defense to conduct mandatory in-person physical and mental health exams with every service member30 to 90 days after deployment. A May 2005 GAO study shows 80 percent of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were at risk of mental health problems were not referred for help.

The bill would also require secure electronic medical records in order to preserve the privacy of our soldiers. Finally, it would require that National Guardsmen and Reservists be given equal services when they transition from deployment to civilian life. Currently, both groups are treated as second-class citizens.

"The National Guard and Reserve are serving on the front lines in Iraq. It is outrageous that they are not given equal treatment. It is time for that to change."