At Tester’s invitation, Montana veteran testifies on Capitol Hill
Matthew Kuntz suggests Congress follow Montana’s lead in treating PTSD
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – A Helena veteran who became a national leader in the fight for better mental health care for veterans today suggested Congress follow Montana’s lead in identifying and treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Senator Jon Tester asked Matthew Kuntz to testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today.
Kuntz gave up his post-military career as an attorney to push for better mental health care following the death of his stepbrother, Chris Dana.
Dana was a member of the Montana National Guard who took his own life in 2007, fifteen months after returning from Iraq. Kuntz calls Dana’s death an “ugly, painful and needless tragedy” that resulted from a severe case of PTSD which wasn’t identified in time.
Following Dana’s death, the Montana National Guard started requiring mandatory mental health screenings for returning veterans twice a year.
“The genius of the Montana screening model is that it happens every six months,” Kuntz told Tester during today’s hearing. “I really—in my heart—believe that if they would have sat down with Chris six months (after his redeployment), when he could no longer go to drill, when he was having the flashbacks, when he was having trouble dealing with his own family—that’s when that counselor could have gotten him out of his shell. But I tell you, we tried later—a year later—and it was too late.”
Tester asked Kuntz if Dana’s “hidden injury” could have been identified had a system been in place to more routinely screen returning Veterans for PTSD. Kuntz replied, “I believe so.”
Tester plans to introduce legislation for rural veterans next week that will include a mental health component.
Kuntz currently serves as Executive Director of the Montana Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. His written testimony to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is available online HERE.