From the CEO
As I write this column, Memorial Day festivities dominate our headquarters city of Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands of Americans come to pay tribute to those killed in U.S. wars. This year's commemoration occurred in the context of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the consistent documentation of manifold mental health needs of returning service members, veterans and their families. This context led me to reflect on the role of APA in addressing those needs. As you may know, large numbers of psychologists are employed in either the Military Health System or in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health-care system.
APA has a long history of support for our military personnel, which includes activities of Div. 19 (Society for Military Psychology). Among our most recent achievements is the establishment of the Center for Deployment Psychology through collaboration between the Department of Defense and Congress (see "Center for Deployment Psychology opens"). This effort was developed in large measure with the vision and leadership of our Education Directorate. The center, which is housed at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., offers training to military and civilian behavioral health professionals to better serve military personnel and their families. APA has also been actively engaged in federal advocacy for Defense Department appropriations and legislation for a variety of purposes, including increased services and additional funding to establish a solid infrastructure for research. We have also sponsored congressional briefings to educate policy-makers about the mental health needs of our service members and their families, and the contributions of our military psychologists toward addressing them; and we have been actively involved in coalition efforts that similarly support Defense Department programs and funding.
APA also has a long history of partnership with our VA psychologists through Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service) and the Association of VA Psychology Leaders, with the celebration of our 10th annual VA Psychology Leadership Conference in May (see "VA psychology conference celebrates 10 years"). APA has worked closely with federal policy-makers to share psychological research and clinical knowledge regarding the mental and behavioral health needs of U.S. veterans. These include a focus on the needs of older adults, individuals with disabilities (including traumatic brain injury), ethnic minorities, women, children, youth and those who have experienced trauma and abuse. As with the Defense Department, these efforts have included drafting and reviewing legislative proposals, sponsoring congressional briefings, and meeting with congressional offices and other stakeholder organizations and coalitions in support of increased funding for VA services, training and research.
This year, APA issued a report prepared by our APA Presidential Task Force on Military Deployment Services for Youth, Families and Service Members. The report highlighted the mental health needs of military personnel and their families related to deployment, programs that assist them, and barriers to overcome that will improve access to care. We are establishing a follow-up task force to review these preliminary findings and to develop a long-term plan of action for the association regarding mental health services for military personnel and their families. We are collaborating with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs in seeking official liaisons from these agencies to serve on the task force to help ensure that our efforts benefit our military personnel, veterans and their families.
Through our media relations program and the APA Web site, we have been able to provide consumer-friendly information on topics of concern to military families, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), children's reactions to having their parents deployed and readjustment to home life for returning personnel. Our convention this year will include a number of sessions designed to help practitioners understand the special needs of military personnel and their families, including sessions on assessing and treating deployment stress, deployment-related PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
Finally, for psychologists interested in serving this population, numerous opportunities exist, ranging from being trained as a volunteer, to embarking upon a career in the military or the VA, to becoming a TRICARE provider. In case you are not aware, TRICARE is the Department of Defense health-care program for active duty, activated guard and reserve, and retired members of the uniformed services, their families and survivors. TRICARE brings together the health-care resources of the Army, Navy and Air Force and supplements them with networks of civilian health-care professionals (including psychologists) to provide better access to high-quality service.
In closing, I would like to commend our VA and military psychologists for their dedication and outstanding contributions to meeting the mental health needs of our veterans, and of our service members and their families, respectively.