Release: Sanders, Leahy Welcome Improved National PTSD Center in White River Jct.

Leahy And Sanders: New HDQ For National PTSD Center Is A Mark Of Nation’s Support Of Veterans In Need
 
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (TUESDAY, Oct. 12) – To U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the new headquarters building here for the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) says much about the four-decade passage of PTSD to being understood and treated as a front-burner veterans medical issue.  Leahy and Sanders made that observation Tuesday while taking part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the facility, which is housed on the campus of the VA Medical Center at White River Junction.

The senators noted that the new Headquarters Building is the hub of what has become an extensive VA-wide PTSD research and education network -- parallel to the direct care that veterans receive in VA medical facilities -- which acts on the nation’s long-term commitment to look after those who have served once they return home.

“I can’t say enough about the work done by the men and women of the National Center for PTSD,” said Leahy, who, as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has championed investments in the Center to address PTSD cases among troops returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  “We used to think of PTSD as something faced only by Vietnam veterans.  So many of our troops coming home today also suffer from PTSD.  It is more important than ever for us to look after those who have done and given so much for their fellow citizens and who now suffer from the invisible wounds of war.”

Sanders, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said, “At a time when studies tell us that over 300,000 or nearly one out of every five service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD or major depression, expanding and improving the nation’s leader in PTSD research is the least we can do. We must do everything we can to make sure our brave men and women in uniform receive the care they need when they return from war.”

During their remarks at the Center, Leahy and Sanders renewed their commitment to supporting the Center in both the VA authorization and appropriations processes.

Sanders worked closely with the chairman of the veterans committee, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), to bolster the budget for the White River Junction facility.  On January 24, 2008, they sent a letter to then-VA Sec. James Peake regarding the Center’s increased workload and relatively flat budget in recent years.  Sanders also met with the VA secretary personally to raise the issue again, along with other health care-related concerns. 

Over several years Leahy has requested and received millions of dollars in budget increases for the National Center at White River Junction.  In two of the past four years he secured language encouraging the VA to lift the Center’s budget to match its broad responsibilities.  At Leahy’s prompting the VA in 2009 was encouraged to increase the Center’s budget by $2 million.  Leahy is pressing in this year’s VA appropriations bill to further sharpen VA’s focus on the needs of PTSD-stricken combat veterans.

Leahy said, “It has always been a source of purpose and pride to participate in the work of this Center.  Senator Sanders and I will continue to work with others in the Senate to make sure the Center is the priority, within VA, and within Congress, that it needs to be.”

The VA established the National Center for PTSD in response to a 1984 congressional mandate (PL98-528) to address the needs of veterans with military-related PTSD.  The National Center’s mission is to enhance medical research and education on PTSD.  Convinced that no single VA site could adequately serve this unique mission, VA established the Center as a consortium of five divisions.  The Center currently consists of seven VA academic centers of excellence across the United States, with headquarters in White River Junction.  Other divisions are located in Boston, Mass.; West Haven, Conn.; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Honolulu, Hawaii.