IAVA to Participate in the Kennedy Forum on Mental Health in Boston

IAVA to Participate in the Kennedy Forum on Mental Health in Boston

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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IAVA to Participate in the Kennedy Forum on Mental Health in Boston

BOSTON (October 23, 2013) – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will participate this week in a panel at The Kennedy Forum, a new initiative to unite the mental health community, Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and CEO of IAVA will discuss mental health challenges facing veterans, including those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The panel moderated by Chelsea Clinton is entitled, “Community Approaches; We’re All in This Together,” and will be held Thursday at 10:15 a.m. in Boston at the Westin Copley.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing of the Community Mental Health Act, which laid the foundation of contemporary mental health policy. 

“The men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from mental health injuries, injuries as significant as if they were shot in the arm. Veterans with mental health injuries need to be treated with the same urgency and care and response as if they had a bullet wound,” Rieckhoff said. “We have made progress strengthening mental health care, but we have much more work to do. We are thankful to Congressman Patrick Kennedy for the opportunity to discuss such a critical issue for the veterans community.”

IAVA’s 2013 Member Survey produced alarming findings regarding veterans mental health. 30 percent of members reported that they have considered taking their own life, while 45 percent of respondents know an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide.  Forty-three percent of respondents said they did not seek care for mental health issues because of a perceived negative impact on their career.  A recent VA study estimates that 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

IAVA is participating in the Forum in a state with a large veterans population: an estimated 388,530 veterans live in Massachusetts, including 24,634 who served post-9/11. As with veterans across the country, Massachusetts veterans face a number of challenges, including high unemployment. In 2012, the state post-9/11 veterans unemployment rate was 23.4 percent.  Veterans also are facing the economic and emotional strain of waiting in the VA claims backlog. The Boston Regional Office has 6,856 claims pending and 4,012 claims (58.5% of claims) pending more than 125 days. IAVA has called for a renewed effort to reduce the backlog, and supports the newly approved reinstatement of mandatory overtime, which played a key role in lowering the backlog by 31 percent since March.

IAVA will also be meeting with the Department of Veterans’ Services. Building on previous meetings, Rieckhoff stated, “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is clearly a great leader for new veterans, setting the standard with best-in-class programs like Statewide Advocacy for Veterans’ Empowerment (SAVE) and the Women Veterans’ Network. We look forward to working together to continue improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families in the Bay State.”

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator. 

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