News Releases

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today stood with fellow Democrats and veterans’ advocates to introduce legislation that would provide quality mental health care to America’s veterans and returning service members. Murray, a key member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, is an original co-sponsor of the Veterans’ Mental Health Care Capacity Enhancement Act of 2005.

“Caring for the mental health needs of our veterans is about American values. If we value the strength of our families, the strength of our economy and the promises we have made to our military, then we must pass this amendment and give our veterans the care they deserve,” Senator Murray said.

Over the past several months Senator Murray has held roundtable forums with Guard and Reserve veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to hear about the challenges they are facing as they return home from the battlefront.

Last week at a forum in Port Orchard, Murray heard from recent veterans who discussed mental health challenges and increased stress as they return home from their missions abroad.

Murray also heard about family struggles due to inadequate mental health resources.

“Divorce should not be a consequence of serving your country overseas, but we have seen the divorce rate among returning military rise dramatically. We need to have the mental health services in place so our veterans know they are not alone and know that there are resources available to help them and their families get through these tough times,” Murray said.

“We have asked our men and women in uniform to sacrifice for us and we have the responsibility to care for them when they come home – not just with rhetoric, but with real services and support.”

The Veterans’ Mental Health Care Capacity and Enhancement Act of 2005 would:

  • Direct the Under Secretary for Health to establish guidelines for screening primary care patients for mental health disorders and illnesses, and conduct training of primary care physicians accordingly.

  • Strengthen performance measures for VA mental health programs to include establishing staff-patient ratios, foster more collaborative environments for primary and mental health care providers, and encourage primary care consultations for mental health;

  • Require that not less than 90 percent of Community-Based Outpatient Clinics have the capacity to provide onsite, contract, or tele-mental health services to a certain percentage of their patient populations;

  • Require that each VA primary health care facility have the capacity to provide at least five days of inpatient detoxification services either onsite or at a nearby contracted facility and that a case manager can be assigned to coordinate follow-up services;

  • Direct VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to enter into an agreement to ensure that separating service members receive standardized screenings for sexual trauma and mental health disorders as part of their separation exams;

  • Establish a joint VA-DoD Workgroup on mental health, tasked with examining how to combat stigmas associated with mental health disorders, ways in which VA can make their expertise in the field more readily available to DoD providers, developing education initiatives to assist families of service members on how to recognize signs of and deal with mental health disorders, and provide for a seamless transition of service members who have already been diagnosed with mental health disorders while on active duty;

  • Amend existing specialized services capacity law to index funding requirements to inflation, for the purposes of meeting the requirements and reporting on them.