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Executive Order is A Step Forward For Transitioning Veterans
On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order expanding mental health care for transitioning veterans in an effort to reduce suicides. We are encouraged to learn the executive order has directed the Departments of Defense (DOD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Homeland Security to enhance their coordination and collaboration on suicide prevention strategies for our military.
It is estimated that as many as 550,000 post-9/11 veterans are struggling with the invisible wounds of war— post traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, substance abuse disorders etc. Sadly, gone untreated the invisible wounds of war may lead to suicide.
Warrior Wellness Alliance Goals
Peer-to-peer networks break down the barriers that many warriors face in addressing these issues. By linking these organizations with high-quality care providers we will:
Increase the number of warriors in care
Improve the quality of care available, and the reach of that care
Increase investment in research that leads to better diagnostics and treatment approaches for the invisible wounds of war
Raise awareness and understanding of these injuries and treatment paths, including combating stigmas and stereotypes
We know that veterans are sometimes reluctant to ask for help or seek care and support services. And when they do choose to receive support, they often are unsure of where to go or what to expect. There are more than 45,000 organizations willing to help them transition from military to civilian life. But often, these organizations work in isolation, causing confusion and disjointed gaps in service for transitioning veterans and their families. We also know that only 40 percent of veterans receive care in the VA.
Along with directing the departments to generate a plan in the coming months, there is speculation about automatic enrollment in the VA as part of the transition process. Automatically enrolling service members in the VA can be an effective strategy to reduce barriers associated with seeking mental healthcare and empower veterans to take advantage of the programs the VA offers.
However, automatic enrollment has tremendous implications for the Department of Veterans’ budget and their capacity, which is already constrained.
The George W. Bush Institute’s Warrior Wellness Alliance, which represents 1 million post-9/11 military families and 13 best-in-class service organizations, is uniquely positioned to assist with the execution of this Presidential action. The Warrior Wellness Alliance is aimed at connecting post-9/11 veterans and their families with a continuum of quality care and peer support in the private sector. By breaking down communication gaps, the Alliance is able to facilitate partnerships to enhance the resources that exist across high quality mental health programs and peer-to-peer networks.
It is encouraging to see that the executive order is further breaking down these communication gaps by having the DOD, VA and Department of Homeland Security work together. Particularly exciting is the inclusion of the Department of Homeland Security as approximately 30 percent of the department’s workforce are veterans.
Employers who hire a large number of veterans have a tremendous opportunity to promote health and well being before veterans (and civilians alike) are in crisis. We encourage other employers of veterans to follow the lead of President Trump and identify ways they can play a role in this critical public health challenge.
This executive order is a great step in reducing barriers for veterans struggling with the invisible wounds of war. And, the Bush Institute Warrior Wellness Alliance is available to assist in partnership with the federal agencies to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve.
Kacie Kelly oversees and manages policy, operational, and programmatic efforts on veteran health and well-being, including the Warrior Wellness Alliance. She manages strategic efforts to promote the partnerships, collaboration, and alignment among organizations that are so crucial to fostering the health and well-being of post-9/11 Veterans.
Prior to this role, Kacie served as the National Director for Public-Private Partnerships in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office for Suicide Prevention where she was responsible for developing a comprehensive and integrated public health approach to prevent suicide among the 14 million Veterans not engaged in VA healthcare. Throughout her 15-year career with VA, she led innovative programs to serve more Veterans and their families through strategic partnerships within government and across public and private sectors. In addition, she has had leading roles to promote military culture competence in the community, outreach efforts to reduce stigma associated with seeking mental healthcare, and to enhance provider proficiency in evidence-based mental health care. She earned her Master of Health Sciences (MHS) at Louisiana State University and has a Graduate Certificate in Women in Public Policy and Politics from the University of Massachusetts - Boston. Kacie has also been an active volunteer in the New Orleans community where she served as a Commissioner on the BioDistrict Board of New Orleans and on the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross.Full Bio
Mental Health Awareness Month
May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness and reduce stigma, particularly for veterans and the invisible wounds of war. Members from the Bush Institute’s Warrior Wellness Alliance offered their perspectives throughout the month to discuss what they wish more civilians understood about veteran mental health, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. They also discussed how everyone can help get more warriors the care they need. Check out their videos below.
How a Community in New Orleans is Helping Veterans Transition
Dylan Tête, Executive Director and Founder, Bastion Community of Resilience will receive the George W. Bush Institute Military Service Citation at the Bush Center's Forum on Leadership.
Creating a Global Veteran Community
Deputy Director of Military Service Initiative Kacie Kelly recently spoke at an international veterans’ mental health conference: “Evidence, Innovation, and Practice” hosted by Kings College London and the Forces in Mind Trust Foundation.