APA joins forces with the White House and other health professions to support military service members, veterans, and their families

First Lady Michelle Obama and Mary Winnefeld, leftThe American Psychological Association (APA) participated in a January 9-10 White House Joining Forces event that focused on meeting the neurological and psychological needs of service members, veterans, and their families. Joining Forces is a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to provide U.S. service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. The January event included representatives from nearly 30 leading health professions and related organizations, including APA, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Psychiatric Association, and National Association of Social Workers. The event focused on how the health care community can support the needs of service members, veterans, and their families related to traumatic brain injury (TBI), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental wounds of war.

Admiral James Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Mary, hosted an opening reception on January 9 at their home on Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall. This forum allowed health professions representatives and key military leaders to network and discuss opportunities for leadership on these issues.

On January 10, the group toured the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) on the campus of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. NICoE is an evaluation, treatment planning, and research facility dedicated to providing care to service members and families dealing with TBI and psychological health conditions. Key military officials welcomed the group, and briefings were provided by leaders of several other key Department of Defense (DoD) centers that assist returning service members, including the Center for Deployment Psychology; the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress; the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury; the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center; the National Center for Telehealth and Technology; and the Deployment Health Clinical Center.

The White House hosted the next portion of the meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which focused on strategies to engage every key health professions organization in meeting the needs of returning service members and veterans. First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the group and shared encouraging remarks about the important role that health professionals play in addressing TBI, PTSD, and other mental wounds of war. Additional presenters included key leaders from Joining Forces, the DoD, and the VA. Next, each of the participating groups, including APA, briefly shared information on their recent and ongoing military and veterans initiatives. Diane Elmore, PhD, MPH, Associate Executive Director, APA Public Interest Government Relations Office and coordinator of APA’s military and veterans activities, represented APA at the event and highlighted the association’s strong history of service in this area. Specifically, she highlighted APA’s successful advocacy to create the Center for Deployment Psychology, APA’s partnership with the University of Utah’s National Center for Veterans Studies to host the 2011 Military and Veterans Suicide Prevention Best Practices Summit, and a recent APA collaboration with Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) to coordinate a military and veterans mental health training for faith-based providers.

APA will continue to work with the White House and other key health professions involved in the Joining Forces initiative, as part of its ongoing activities on military and veterans issues.