Questions from Division 19 – Military Psychology

My father was a veteran of WW II, who fought on the front lines and was wounded twice; my mother was a survivor of Auschwitz.  I believe in a strong military, supported by military psychologists. I also believe unequivocally that  the vast majority of military psychologists work ethically and do tremendous service for the military and the country. I will work with Division 19 in supporting these psychologists.

 It is well known that I oppose psychologists’ participation in national security interrogations and in any human rights violations as defined by international law. Perhaps Division 19 and I disagree on this. I do not see such disagreements as stemming from “strong emotions related to the Hoffman report,” but rather from different responses to the evidence presented in the Independent Review. I believe further that the efforts of those of us who worked to ensure that psychologists are protected from being put in situations where they might be violating anti-torture statutes is, in fact, supportive of military psychologists. 

I have found that, even among military psychologists, there are strong differences of opinion regarding the Independent Review. Nonetheless, I believe we are united regarding the other, numerous ways that psychologists serve our military.

 As APA President, I will work with Division 19 to support the mission of psychologists who serve our military, their families, and the military itself through practice, research, consultation and bringing a psychological perspective to the chain of command, consistent with APA policy and ethics. I would value your support.

The profession of psychology has an obligation to meet the critical mental health needs of all those who participated in the past 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with their families.  Our all-volunteer army, while responding valiantly to the demands of these wars, often served multiple tours that took a toll on the soldier and his/her family.

The most pressing problem is the rate of suicide amongst active duty, veterans, reservists and National Guard.  As Carl Castro, a retired army officer who oversaw behavioral health research programs, says, “It’s very clear nothing that the Army has done has resulted in the suicide rates coming down.”  (USA Today, June 18, 2016)  

Our active duty and veterans face an uphill battle in numerous other ways:

  • Unemployment for veterans outpaces that of civilians.
  • Twenty percent of returning veterans suffer from PTSD or major depression.
  • About one in five female veterans suffer from “military sexual trauma” related PTSD and are the fastest growing subset of homeless -veteran populations in America.
  • Those with brain injuries have an increased incidence of PTSD.
  • Only 40% of veterans with serious emotional problems seek help from a mental health professional.
  • Stigma is a major barrier preventing veterans from getting professional help.
  • Veterans lack access to trained mental health providers.
  • The potential long-term consequences to unaddressed mental health needs.

Clearly psychology has much to do for our country’s active duty , veteran, reservists and National Guard.

I will call for the kind of cutting edge research that is necessary to address the high suicide rate, the increased risk for PTSD with brain trauma, and long-term consequences of untreated mental disorders.  The Army has implemented many suicide-prevention programs, but lacks any reliable evaluations of those programs.   I would like to see more psychologists join Tricare, to provide the badly needed services.  This is particularly true for those in rural areas, far from a VA hospitals or military bases.  I would advocate for better training for civilian psychologists in meeting the treatment need of veterans.