According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, during the period of 2008 to 2016, there were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year in the United States. Suicide is the worst outcome linked to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An increase of research on PTSD with the United States-Israel PTSD Collaborative Research Act has the potential to change the lives of veterans and increase public health in the country. This bill would work to increase funding for nonprofits and institutions to conduct research in cooperation with Israeli researchers on PTSD. Our veterans are some of the most vulnerable populace in our nation and we must protect them.
Israel has invested resources in researching PTSD partly due to their large veteran population as a result of conscription. Collaboration with Israeli researchers has the potential to impact the lives of many veterans. American soldiers have been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for close to two decades now and have been returning back to the nation with high rates of PTSD. Around 12% of American soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD. Female soldiers suffer at a higher rate of PTSD compared to their male comrades. Twenty percent of all women returning from those missions have PTSD. This is not a recent phenomenon for soldiers of recent wars. From the Vietnam conflict an astonishing 30% of all veterans have PTSD. It is important to realize the U.S. still has thousands of troops in the Middle East serving in combat roles. The rates of PTSD will not drop in the foreseeable future; action must be taken to combat this horrendous disease. It is important to note that these statistics are only the ones reported; the actual rate of PTSD has the potential to be much larger. If America truly cares about its veterans like it boasts, then it must give them the care they deserve.
This bill would allow for grants to be issued to both institutions and nonprofits on their research on PTSD. An increase of funding toward the research of PTSD symptoms, causes and treatment has the power to impact thousands of lives for generations to come. Soldiers returning home from war will be exposed to the disease for the rest of their lives unless there is a greater understanding of the disease. That greater understanding comes from our institutions and institutions abroad. Suicide and PTSD are directly correlated, simply put higher rates of PTSD will lead to higher rates of suicides among veterans. Veterans already give enough to this country. When they return back to the states they face problems such as substance abuse and unemployment. Increased research has the power to treat PTSD, lower suicide rates and allow people to grow past their trauma.
Critics of this bill will say that it is unnecessary in cost. Why should the budget inflate more when it is something the VA should take care of? The VA is understaffed, underfunded and overworked with the vast encompassing task of veterans affairs. This bill would ease some burden from their resources and staff to focus on other veterans issues. Additionally, this bill does not call for more funding, but rather a reallocation of already existing defense budget resources. An increase of research and general understanding from NGOs, both American and Israeli would not overly inflate the budget. If the U.S. can spend More than $700 billion on the yearly defense budget, it can allocate a few million dollars for the lives of it’s soldiers after they return home from war. It is surprising that only one Massachusetts representative has co-sponsored this bill, Representative Kennedy of the 4th District. The issue of veterans’ mental health is a bipartisan issue, all Massachusetts representatives should endorse this bill. The United States-Israel PTSD Collaborative Research Act must be supported for the general well-being of Americans everywhere as well as for our heroes.
Pat Whalen is a 2020 graduate of Endicott College in Beverly.