Senators help secure assistance for troops returning from combat

Baucus, Tester Say Additional Resources On The Way For Service Members

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Following a meeting with Montana's Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today, a top military official committed to providing additional resources to troops returning to civilian life after serving in combat.

Earlier this 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.

Today, the senators met with Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. David Chu. Baucus and Tester urged Dr. Chu to adopt new procedures to help troops reintegrate into civilian life through a variety of measures including health care screenings and counseling. Dr. Chu committed to working with Montana's Major General Mosley to expand the program that helps identify signs of mental health problems and also to include the Montana National Guard in the Joint Family Support Assistant Program, which will helps soldiers and their family members cope with the stress of a combat deployment.

"Our military men and women lay their lives on the line every day to protect the freedoms we enjoy as Montanans and Americans. Dr. Chu's commitments are a step in the right direction to helping our brave troops after they return home," Baucus said. "I'll continue to work together with Jon to make sure our Montana men and women get the assistance they need and deserve."

"There's nothing easy about adjusting to the culture shock of returning to normal life in Montana after months—or years—in a foreign war zone like Iraq," said Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  "It's time to put the screws to the system so troops and their families don't have to battle uphill alone when they come home."

Baucus and Tester were pleased with the outcome of today's meeting but are committed to continue working with the National Guard to try to make the following changes:

  • Rescind the 60-day 'no drill' period: This policy was initially established to allow troops to reintegrate into their civilian lives, however many National Guardsmen would welcome the opportunity to return to drill as quickly as possible. Making the change would allow Guardsmen to reconnect with "battle buddies" – a key element of PTSD treatment.  It would also provide opportunities for more confidential physical or mental health assessments, which will improve mental health among troops.
  • Include Montana in the "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" program: Currently Montana is not included in the program, which helps Guardsmen reintegrate into civilian life. This program helps troops with family counseling, assistance with going back to school, and obtain civilian health care and other benefits.

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.