On Your Behalf
Pentagon and Congress should act quickly to end gay military ban, APA says
APA urged both the Pentagon and Congress to move swiftly to end the restrictions on gay men and lesbians openly serving in the military, saying that decades of research have demonstrated no threat to military readiness or morale.
“While we were heartened by the congressional testimony of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, we believe that a year to study the matter and another year to implement change is too long,” says APA President Carol Goodheart, EdD. “The military has proved itself willing, able and effective in the integration of African Americans and of women. This experience can and should inform efforts to end the current situation in which gay and lesbian service members, who everyone acknowledges are currently serving, must conceal their sexual orientation to avoid being discharged.”
Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gates testified Feb. 2 before the Senate Armed Services Committee in favor of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. President Obama has also voiced support for repeal of the current prohibition but has declined to issue an executive order to change the policy.
APA strongly opposes the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly lesbian and gay people from military service. This stance reflects the APA Policy Statement on Sexual Orientation and Military Service, adopted by the APA Council of Representatives in July 2004. In this policy statement, the association reaffirmed its opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation and its commitment to disseminating scientific knowledge to ameliorate the negative effects of the law through training and education.
APA has also lobbied in support of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which currently has 187 House co-sponsors. In fact, members of Div. 44 (Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues) advocated on behalf of this bill and two other key APA legislative priorities affecting LGBT people as part of an advocacy day organized by the Public Interest Government Relations Office in January.
Goodheart says that repealing the current policy would improve the mental health of gay men and lesbians already serving in the armed forces. “The military can be seen as a highly stressful environment, especially in wartime. It is important to encourage military personnel to seek mental health care when needed in order to promote their well-being and effectiveness,” she said. “The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, however, works against effective access to mental health services by increasing the anxiety of gay and lesbian military personnel and then discouraging them from seeking mental health care.”
APA report outlines actions psychologists can take to end homelessness
Providing housing without addressing the psychosocial factors associated with homelessness is not enough to solve this overarching problem, according to a new APA task force report released in February.
APA’s 2009 President, James H. Bray, PhD, commissioned a Task Force on Psychology’s Contribution to End Homelessness to identify and address psychosocial factors and conditions associated with homelessness and define the role of psychologists in ending the phenomenon. The group examined the scientific research into homelessness and conducted a survey of psychologists’ activities in the area.
“Through research, training, practice and advocacy, the field of psychology can make invaluable contributions toward the remediation of homelessness,” says Bray. “The report of this task force is a call to our profession to work to end homelessness, which is a major public health concern.”
In the realm of research, the report calls on psychologists to, among other things:
• Direct research efforts toward preventing homelessness in marginalized and vulnerable populations.
• Design and disseminate evidence-based interventions for people who are homeless.
• Investigate methods to promote resilience in at-risk populations, including children and youth.
• Evaluate programs with a focus on mechanisms that support a rapid return to permanent housing and methods for sustaining housing in vulnerable populations.
With respect to training, the report recommends that the discipline:
• Incorporate into graduate school curricula theoretical and applied perspectives of working with populations at risk for homelessness.
• Develop training opportunities for psychologists to work with at-risk populations.
• Create continuing-education programs that encourage psychologists to work with people who are homeless.
• Enlist psychologists to work with service providers, charitable groups, community volunteers and others working to end homelessness.
Other recommendations include creating meaningful collaborations among psychologists and others working with the homeless. The task force regularly visits with Congress to advocate for additional funding for critical programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The group will hold a congressional briefing on the report later this year, at which they will also advocate for more funding for services for those without homes, including mental health and substance use services, in addition to funding for housing.
To see a copy of the report, go to APA's Socioeconomic Status Office.
Due in part to APA Practice Organization (APAPO) advocacy, on Feb. 2 the Obama administration issued interim final rules for implementing mental health parity that are favorable to psychology. The rules require that health insurance plans that offer mental health benefits provide coverage on par with the benefits offered for physical illnesses. The rules also prohibit employers and health insurers from establishing separate deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums for mental health and substance use benefits. These rules replace those derived from the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 with directives from the more comprehensive Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici . The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will accept public comments on the rules until May 3, and APAPO will continue its work throughout the bill’s implementation to ensure that patients receive the benefits Congress intended.
APAPO continues to advocate for better Medicare payments for practicing psychologists. In a Feb. 12 letter to minority and majority leaders in the U.S. House and Senate, APA and more than a dozen other health-care organizations called for immediate passage of legislation that would extend certain Medicare policies through 2011, including a continuation of a 5 percent increase in payments for psychotherapy to partially offset cuts imposed in 2007. Both the health-care and Medicare reform bills passed by the House and Senate include provisions that would extend the 5 percent payment. Congress is also considering passing separate legislation that would restore the psychotherapy payments retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010.
APA Executive Director for Science Steve Breckler, PhD, responded to a request from the National Institutes of Health for guidance in prioritizing areas of funding for basic behavioral and social science research. In a Feb. 19 letter to the NIH, Breckler commended the agency on efforts to reinvigorate research on such public health concerns as stress, the development of personalized and culturally appropriate interventions, disease management, and health communications. He also voiced APA’s support for expanding research on organizational management, human factors and communications that could improve health-care delivery. In addition, Breckler recommended more support for research that examines the interplay of biological, psychological and environmental factors on health behaviors.
“Lack of attention to these questions both hampers advancement of the basic science of health behavior and limits the potential routes through which intervention approaches might be targeted to encourage healthier behavioral patterns,” Breckler wrote.
APA and other member organizations of the Coalition for National Security Research sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing on the importance of defense-related research, including work by psychologists, on Jan. 19. At the briefing, also co-hosted by the House Research and Development Caucus, academic and industry researchers stressed the critical role of federal funding for national security-related science and urged Congress to reverse cuts to applied research programs. Psychologists play a vital role in basic and applied behavioral research supported by the Department of Defense, in areas ranging from human factors in airplane cockpit design to leadership and team performance.
APA’s Science Directorate represented the association at another Capitol Hill meeting on Jan. 19 to discuss the upcoming reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. Heather Kelly, PhD, senior legislative and federal affairs officer in APA’s Science Government Relations Office, participated in the meeting, hosted by the Coalition for National Science Funding, with staff from the House Science & Technology Committee. Such advocacy is particularly important as Congress works on the reauthorization of the bill, which would reinstate the National Science Foundation and its programs of research, education and outreach.