May 23, 2008, Washington, DC – The Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation proposes the immediate implementation of a national PTSD Hotline, staffed 24/7 by disabled American Veteran graduates of the Purple Heart Foundation’s Veteran Business Training Center. Members of Congress agree and are lending their voice to this needed resource.
“President Lincoln stated “As the nation remembers those men and women in uniform who paid their last full measure of devotion to their nation, we should not forgot those brave men and women who have returned home, need and seek help adjusting to day to day lives” said Ken Smith, Senior Vice President of the Combat Wounded Call Center.
Spearheading this initiative by sending a signed letter to the Honorable James B. Peake, Secretary of the Veterans Affairs (Ret. US Army General) is Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D. 8th district (D-WI) lending additional bi-partisan support is:
• Congressman Phil Hare, 17th district (D-IL), Congressman Ron Kind, 3rd district (D-WI), Congresswoman Nancy Boyda, 2nd district (D-KS), Congresswoman Gwen Moore, 4th district (D-WI), Congresswoman Heather Wilson, 1st district, (R-NM), Congressman Dennis Moore, 3rd district (D-KS), Congressman Christopher Shays, 4th district, (D-CT), Congressman Paul Hodes, 2nd district (D-NH), Congressman Bruce Braley, 1st district (D-IA), Congresswoman Betty Sutton, 13th district (D-OH)
These legislators are supportive of this unique initiative by the Purple Heart Service Foundation.
Last year in the Fall of 2007, the Purple Heart Service Foundation approached the Veterans Administration with a proposal to launch the PTSD Hotline, While the proposal was well received at senior levels of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to date there has been no subsanative action taken to implement the Hotline.
“The main goal of the Hotline is to have a toll free number available for Veterans to call when they need it most. The fully trained disabled Veteran answering the call is not a social worker,” stated Smith., he is a trained call center agent, but first and foremost, he is an American veteran.
“The purpose of the hotline is to triage each call, talk directly with the Veteran, Peer-to-Peer, listen to the caller, and then provide the correct referrals. We believe the difference between a live Veterans voice and an automated recording is critical,” continued Smith.
To address the growing needs of American combat Veterans, the VA recently awarded a $2.7M contract to EDS last month to call 500,00 combat Veterans to inform them of available VA benefits.
“The outreach by the VA to have EDS agents contact this group of combat Veterans is a good first step, but what happens when a Veteran can’t sleep at night and just needs to speak with someone at 3:00 a.m.?” questioned Smith, ” The country should be ready to help our Veterans 24 hours a days just as they have defended and protected the nation 24 hours a day. We need to be proactive and anticipate that PTSD episodes can happen in non-business hours – with a 24/7 Peer-to-Peer PTSD Hotline, Veterans can call at anytime and know another Veteran is going to answer the phone, this is going to make a world of difference. Ask any veteran if they think having a veteran answer their call is important – the response is overwhelmingly yes.”
According to Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery, a new study released and funded by the California Community Foundation, 19 percent of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan reported experiencing possible traumatic brain injury, but many, fearing the stigma attached to psychological illness, did not seek help. The study estimates that PTSD and depression among returning troops will cost the nation as much as $6.2 billion over two years in medical costs, lost productivity, and lives lost to suicide.