February 12, 2013                       

Jonathan Woodson, Department of Defense

Robert Pretzel, Department of Veterans Administration

Pamela Hyde, Department of Health and Human Services

Cate Miller, Department of Education

Rosye Cloud, Director of Policy for Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families

and all Members of the Federal Interagency Task Force on Improving the Mental Health of Veteran Service Members and Military Families:

We respectfully ask that you consider the following recommendations for inclusion in your report to the President:

  1. Expand and coordinate research;

One Mind for Research is now developing the Brain Data Exchange Portal to enable comparable results in advancing the science brain function, illness and injury.

  • We ask the Task Force and the Administration direct the Department of Education to develop new policies providing incentives for academic and governmental analysts to collaborate on mental health research.
  • We ask the Task Force and the Administration direct to all relevant agencies to contribute to the Brain Data Exchange Portal.
  • Embrace and educate the public sector;

The Veterans Administration’s Make the Connection campaign and of the Department of Defense’s Real Warrior campaign are primary examples of working ant-stigma programs, but still targeted principally toward the military and veterans. There is no current parallel messaging campaign aimed at the remaining 90-plus percent of the population.

  • We ask that the Task Force and the Administration establish, or otherwise procure through a professional public relations firm, a campaign targeting the general public to include: local and national awareness functions; volunteer walk/run events; benefit concerts; participation of professional sports; and celebrity public service announcements.
  • Invest in education of our youth;

Paramount to the permanent elimination of the stigma of invisible wounds and illnesses is the education of our youth during their formative years, before prejudices develop.

  • We ask that the Task Force and the Administration direct the Department of Education to develop accredited syllabuses for the formal instruction of our youth on the subject of invisible wounds and illnesses. Social stigma, self-stigma, bullying, revenge and obliteration are all topics which need to be included in such instruction.
  • Invest in continued education of primary care providers;

Many veterans and families at risk first look to their primary care providers for help with invisible wounds.  We should insure that these providers are equipped with the best possible knowledge available

  • We ask that the Task Force and the Administration direct the appropriate agency to develop an accredited syllabus for the continued education of primary care providers on the symptoms of mental health issues, and the eligibility and availability of mental health resources in their area.
  • Qualify invisible wounds for entitlement of the Purple Heart.

Originally conceived by George Washington, then called the Badge of Military Merit, The Purple Heart is now a sacred entitlement meant to distinguish and help mend those who have been wounded in defense of the nation. To continue to deny the Purple Heart for invisible wounds is to continue to deny the reality of these wounds. We are in fact excluding those who most disparately need inclusion. Bestowal of the Purple Heart is the singularly most effective means we now have at our disposal to immediately carve away at the social stigma, and more importantly, the self-stigma of invisible wounds.

  • We ask that the discussions left unfinished in 2009 on the award of the Purple Heart to ALL those wounded in battle immediately be continued.
  • We ask the Task Force to endorse the changing of the name, in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, fifth Edition (DSM V), of the diagnosis Post-traumatic Stress Disorder to Post-traumatic Stress Injury.