APA Urges Congress to Support VA Research
By Heather O'Beirne Kelly
Many psychologists working within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) play dual roles, serving both as clinicians and research scientists committed to improving the lives of our nation's veterans. In April, APA made the most of an opportunity to testify before the new House Military Quality of Life and VA Appropriations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill, strongly advocating for increased support of the VA's intramural research program. Executive Director for Science Steven Breckler delivered APA's testimony, highlighting for Members of Congress the scope of psychology's research contributions and the potential ramifications of cuts to the behavioral research enterprise.
Through its Medical and Prosthetic Research Account, the VA funds intramural research in support of its clinical mission to care for veterans, and VA psychological scientists conduct research in high-priority areas such as mental health, substance abuse, aging-related disorders, and physical and psychosocial rehabilitation. For example, VA psychologists continue to be at the forefront of cutting-edge research on, assessment of and treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The care of veterans suffering psychological wounds as a result of military service is at the heart of the VA's mandate "to care for him who shall have borne the battle," and preventing and treating PTSD has become an even more important priority within the VA given the current conflicts overseas and indications of increased mental health needs in deployed and returning military personnel.
After many years of flat funding for the VA's research program and a cut in Fiscal Year 2005, which was partially restored by Congress, the President has again proposed a cut in VA research funding for Fiscal Year 2006. As a member of the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research, a coalition of over 50 organizations concerned about veterans' health, APA has been active in urging Congress to reverse this proposed cut as they write legislation funding federal agencies. In his testimony, Breckler also encouraged Congress to direct the VA to call upon its psychological researchers and those within the Department of Defense to design and begin a longitudinal study of mental health in a cohort of returning military personnel and veterans. See the full verison of APA's testimony online.