Senators: Military personnel, vets to receive 2nd mental health screening

Baucus, Tester Say Additional Screening Will Detect, Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today announced that the National Guard will be performing additional mental health screenings on Montana military personnel and veterans returning from serving overseas. The additional screening will help detect mental health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sooner rather later so military personnel can get the treatment they need more effectively and efficiently. 

Last year, Montana National Guard Specialist Christopher Dana committed suicide sixteen months after returning home from serving in Iraq. Specialist Dana's death sparked scrutiny into the National Guard's redeployment policies and what resources are provided to troops once they return from combat.

Following the devastating news of Specialist Dana and others, Baucus and Tester met with military officials in Montana, including Montana National Guard Adjutant General Randy Mosley about how to better help transition troops from combat to home life. Both senators met with Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. David Chu last December and urged the National Guard to provide a second mental health screening for troops returning from combat after the troops had had time to settle back into life in Montana. This screening, which the Montana National Guard will conduct during the second year after a redeployment, would be in addition to the screening that troops receive right after they return home.

The National Guard Bureau in Washington today contacted the senators and informed them that the Montana National Guard will be able to conduct of a second mental health screening for all soldiers and airmen returning from combat. The Montana National Guard reports that they will likely start conducting the additional screenings in March.

"Our military deserves the best health care services, period," Baucus said. "Jon and I want to help prevent tragedies like Specialist Dana's from ever happening again and the additional screening will help do that. I'm committed to doing all I can to get our brave men and women the health care they need and deserve.

"Longer and more frequent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing huge problems for the men and women who defended this country," Tester said.  "Max and I are doing everything we can to make sure no one slips through the cracks again." 

Major General Randy Mosley, the Adjutant General for the State of Montana stated, "Our Montana congressional delegation went to bat for Montana Guardsmen and their families by securing from the Secretaries Office of the Department of Defense their commitment to support the Montana National Guard and its PDHRA program.  Receiving approval for the second Post Deployment Health Reassessment is a great breakthrough in guardsmen and family care. We now have the means to extend this benefit to stay in contact with our soldiers and airmen to ensure they receive the care they deserve.  It is of upmost importance to me as Commander of the Montana National Guard that our force is taken care of when they come home and transition back to normal life."   

The senators said that Montana is the only state in the country that will conduct the additional screenings. The National Guard will use Montana as a pilot program to see how effective the second screenings are in detecting mental health illnesses. If the program is successful, the National Guard will make the additional screening available in other states as well.

The senators want to encourage any service member suffering from post combat stress or any other problems for which they want confidential assistance to call "Military Onesource" at 1-800-342-9647. This organization provides confidential help to any service member who needs it.