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A Roundtable with Military Reporters

Last week, President Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki held a roundtable discussion with military reporters at the White House. The conversation covered a broad range of issues that are of concern to our veterans – everything from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which was launched last week, to how health insurance reform will affect VA health care. The President also covered an issue that has often been overlooked in the past, PTSD:
First of all, I do think that there's been a sea change in attitudes around post-traumatic stress disorder since the Vietnam era. And I think both DOD and the VA take the issue of PTSD very seriously.
One of the best things that we can do to reduce incidents of PTSD is to reduce the amount of time in theater without a break. And so the steps that we've taken to increase our forces, particularly army and Marines, the authorization that I've provided to Secretary Gates to advance the increase in forces for our army so that we can end stop-loss policy sooner than we otherwise would have been able to do — all those things are going to make a difference in reducing stress, because what you've seen is, is that the incidents of post-traumatic stress disorder increase with each deployment. So that's step number one.
Step number two is making sure that we are doing the screening that's necessary so that problems don't fester, and eliminating the stigma that may have historically existed when somebody is showing symptoms of PTSD, particularly if they're still in theater, or still on active duty. And I think that you've seen steps both within all the armed forces to talk about these issues, encourage people to avail themselves of services while they're in theater, but also when they get home. And that's then combined with the much more aggressive systematic screening that's now being done by the VA for those who are discharged.
And then the third part of it is to actually provide the mental health services once people have been identified as needing help. And money will pay for more counselors, more mental health specialists, more facilities. It will allow us to target specific aspects of PTSD, for example, women veterans. We are trying to make sure that there are — service is available for women veterans in every VA facility or as many VA facilities as we can. You know, issues of potential sexual abuse for women veterans is being addressed directly in a way that it hasn't been talked about in the past.
So I think that this kind of comprehensive approach will help, but it's something that is still going to require a lot of work. That's I think what Ric was referring to when he talked about looking at the homeless population. By the time somebody is homeless, I think it's safe to assume that we've missed a lot of warning
Head over to the Department of Defense, where you can read more about the roundtable discussion, and get more information on these specific issues. You can also read the full transcript here.