Military & Veterans

Military & Veterans
APA works to support military personnel and veterans, their families and their communities, as well as the psychologists who conduct health research with and provide direct services to these military-connected populations.

Our Priorities

Promote mental health and well-being of military personnel, veterans and their families

APA advocates for policies that prevent suicide, promote the use of evidence-based psychotherapies in the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), ensure mental health promotion is included in the transition from active duty to veteran status, promote health research relevant to military personnel and veterans and protect integrated care at the VA while opposing its privatization.

Provide targeted support for military populations at risk for mental health challenges

This includes National Guard and Reserve members; women service members and veterans; families; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) service members and veterans; wounded or disabled service members and veterans; those with other than honorable discharges; those involved in criminal justice and those who are students.

APA Practice Organization Priorities

The APA Practice Organzation is a 501(c)(6) organization that advocates for the interests of practicing psychologists. The APA Practice Organization Advocacy team's work includes advocacy to promote psychologists as key providers and leaders in health care with military and veteran populations, obtain prescribing authority for VA psychologists, obtaining full Title 38 status for VA psychologists, promoting DoD and VA psychologists within the larger military and veteran health care space and training more psychologists as providers of care to military and veteran populations.


Department of Defense

FY 2018 Budget Recommendations

For decades, psychologists have played vital roles within the Department of Defense (DoD) as providers of clinical services to military personnel and their families and as scientific researchers investigating mission-targeted issues as varied as airplane cockpit design, counter-terrorism, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Psychologists bring unique and critical expertise to meeting the needs of our military and its personnel.

1

Reverse FY18 Proposed Cuts to DoD Science & Technology Account 

APA is very troubled that the administration’s FY 2018 request proposes to slash the overall defense science and technology account (S&T) by 5.8 percent. Within the Army research program alone, more than 20 percent of applied and advanced technology research support would be cut.

In line with the Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR), of which APA is one of 90 member organizations, we urge Congress to reverse the administration’s proposed dramatic step backwards and instead provide $14.5 billion for DoD overall S&T in FY 2018.

2

Maintain Support for DoD Behavioral Science Research in FY 2018

Psychological scientists within DoD conduct cutting-edge, mission-specific research critical to warfighter superiority and national defense. Within the S&T research program, APA advocates following the recommendations from the National Academies and the Defense Science Board to fund priority research in the behavioral sciences in support of national security.

3

Support Defense Health Research and Programs That Promote Service Member Mental Health and Well-Being

APA urges Congress to fully fund Health Affairs and other offices addressing research and programming in the crucial areas of service-member mental health and well-being — particularly efforts addressing suicide prevention. APA, in line again with CNSR, requests an increase its support for DoD’s peer-reviewed, congressionally directed medical research programs from $1.28 billion in FY 2017 to $1.33 billion.

4

Address TRICARE Funding

As an organization that supports military personnel, veterans and their families, as well as the psychologists who serve them, APA is concerned about the administration’s proposed FY 2018 cut to TRICARE, and about proposed reimbursement rate cuts for TRICARE mental health providers. These may have significant impacts on network adequacy and access to mental health care for highly-stressed military-connected families and communities.

Department of Veterans Affairs

FY 2018 Budget Recommendations

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the largest single employer of psychologists, who work both as research scientists and clinicians committed to improving the lives of our nation’s veterans. As the largest provider of training for psychologists, the VA also plays a vital role in addressing the mental health workforce shortage equipped to provide culturally competent and integrated mental health services to veterans and their families.

Adequately Fund VA Research

Adequately Fund VA Research

A strong VA psychological research program provides the scientific foundation for high-quality care within the VA system. APA joins the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) coalition in urging Congress to provide $713 million in FY 2018 for VA Medical and Prosthetic Research.

The VA research program needs at least $19 million (a 2.8 percent increase over FY 2017) to account for biomedical research inflation. However, FOVA recommends an additional $19 million in FY 2018, beyond inflationary coverage, for sustained support of research on conditions prevalent among recently returning veterans as well as the chronic conditions of aging veterans. While FOVA supports $65 million for the VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP) to advance precision medicine, this program should not impede other critical VA research priorities.

Mental Health Care

Amply Fund VA Mental Health Care

APA echoes the many policy recommendations of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) regarding VA mental health services. We also share VA Secretary Shulkin’s priorities related to enhanced suicide prevention, extending mental health care to veterans with “other than honorable” discharges and expanding caregiver benefits to include pre-9/11 veteran families. In addition, APA urges Congress to provide ample resources for VA mental health programs and the VA psychologists who serve veterans, with special attention to:

  • Preventing veteran suicide by enhancing access, continuity and integration of care
  • Tracking and improving the quality of non-VA care
  • Recruitment and retention of VA psychologists
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Upgrade VA Research Facilities

State-of-the-art research requires state-of-the-art technology, equipment and facilities in addition to highly qualified and committed scientists and investigators. In recent years, the VA minor construction program hasn't had the funding needed to maintain, upgrade and replace aging research facilities. APA advocates for at least $50 million for up to five major construction projects in VA research facilities and $175 million for nonrecurring maintenance and minor construction projects to address deficiencies.

Military boots depicting military and veterans affairs

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Recent APA Advocacy on Military & Veterans Issues

Increasing Military/Veteran Mental Health Care in Underserved Communities

Increasing Military/Veteran Mental Health Care in Underserved Communities

APA hosted a working group in June 2017 to address telemental health and interstate compacts for mental health providers.

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July 2017

APA Questions Announcement to Bar Transgender People From U.S. Military

The American Psychological Association released a July 26, 2017, statement questioning President Trump’s announced ban on transgender people serving “in any capacity” in the U.S. military, a reversal of the previous administration’s decision to allow transgender military personnel to serve openly. 

“We’ve seen no scientific evidence that allowing transgender people to serve in the armed forces has had an adverse impact on our military readiness or unit cohesion. Therefore, we ask that transgender individuals continue to be allowed to serve their country,” said APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD. 

He cited research by Aaron Belkin, PhD, a leading scholar and director of the Palm Center, which has found no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale. 

“Indeed, Dr. Belkin has found that the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell appears to have enhanced the military’s ability to pursue its mission,” Puente added.

June 2017

APA Submits Recommendations for Department of Veterans Affairs FY 2018 Budget

To keep VA research funding at current-services levels, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research program needs at least $19 million (a 2.8 percent increase over FY 2017) to account for biomedical research inflation, said APA in testimony that it submitted to the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Military Constructions, Veterans Affairs and related agencies. However, APA joined the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) coalition in recommending an additional $19 million beyond inflationary coverage for sustained support of research on conditions prevalent among recently returning veterans, as well as chronic conditions of aging veterans. While FOVA supports $65 million for the VA’s Million Veteran Program (MVP) to advance precision medicine, it noted, this program should not impede other critical VA research priorities. In total, FOVA recommends $713 million in FY 2018 for VA medical and prosthetic research. 

APA also joined the FOVA coalition in urging Congress to provide at least $50 million for up to five major construction projects in VA research facilities and $175 million in nonrecurring maintenance and for minor construction projects to address deficiencies identified in the independent VA research facilities review provided to Congress. 

In addition to the FOVA recommendations, APA called for sufficient funding to:

  • Prevent veteran suicide by taking action to enhance access, continuity and integration of mental health care in the VA. 
  • Track and improve the quality of non-VA care.
  • Address recruitment and retention challenges for VA psychologists.
May 2017

APA Urges Senate to Adequately Fund Science, Technology and Health Research in the Department of Defense Budget

In May 26, 2017, written testimony submitted to the Subcommittee on on Defense of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, APA urged senators to:

  • Reverse Trump administration cuts to the overall DoD Science and Technology (S&T) budget and instead provide $14.5 billion for DoD overall S&T in FY 2018.
  • Maintain support for important behavioral sciences research within DoD. APA encouraged the subcommittee to follow recommendations from the National Academies and the Defense Science Board to fund priority research in the behavioral sciences in support of national security.
  • Support defense health research and programs that promote service-member mental health and well-being. Specifically, APA requested an increase its support for DoD’s peer-reviewed, congressionally directed Medical Research Programs from $1.28 billion in FY 2017 to $1.33 billion. 
  • Address TRICARE cuts and contractor issues regarding mental health treatment. APA expressed concern about the administration’s proposed FY 2018 cut to TRICARE, and about proposed reimbursement rate cuts for TRICARE mental health providers, as these may have significant impacts on  access to mental health care for highly-stressed military-connected families and communities.
May 2016

Congressional Briefing Highlights Research Findings on Alcohol, Stress and the Brain

On Thursday, May 5, 2016, the Friends of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) held a briefing in cooperation with the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus and the Military Mental Health Caucus. The briefing, “Alcohol, Stress and the Brain: Implications for Treatment and Recovery,” explored the link between alcohol and stress and highlighted research findings with implications for treating co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD). NIAAA Director George Koob, PhD, provided an overview of NIAAA's research portfolio on the neurobiological underpinnings of alcohol use disorders as they relate to PTSD. APA member Rajita Sinha, PhD, followed with a dynamic presentation summarizing her research on relapse and recovery in patients with alcohol use disorders. Veteran Anthony Doran, who currently serves as a peer support specialist with Vets4Warriors, discussed his personal journey of recovery after PTSD and alcohol use disorder diagnoses.
March 2017

APA Testified for Veterans Affairs Funding in FY 2018

On March 29, 2017, Heather O’Beirne Kelly, PhD, APA's director for veterans and military health policy, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veteran Affairs and related agencies regarding APA’s request for Fiscal Year 2018 funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (PDF, 307KB). 

APA urged Congress to provide $713 million in FY 2018 for VA Medical and Prosthetic Research, at least $50 million for up to five major construction projects in VA research facilities, and $175 million in nonrecurring maintenance and for minor construction projects to address deficiencies identified in the independent VA research facilities review provided to Congress.

APA also urged Congress to take specific actions to enhance access, continuity and integration of mental healthcare in the VA, track and improve the quality of non-VA care and address recruitment and retention challenges for VA psychologists.

April 2016

APA Continues Advocacy for Mental Health Parity in TRICARE

APA continued its strong advocacy for parity in insurance coverage for mental health and substance use disorders (MHSUD) by providing April 1, 2016, comments (PDF, 380KB) to the Department of Defense (DOD) on a proposed regulation for MHSUD parity in DOD’s TRICARE program. TRICARE is the insurance program offered to families and dependents of active service members. TRICARE is not included in the 2008 Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, so Congress acted to expand parity to those services via separate legislation. These new regulations would implement the law. In its comments, APA encouraged DOD to ensure that parity provisions were comprehensive. Also, DOD had excluded gender transition services from its health coverage and this regulation expanded certain services. APA called for full medically necessary transition services, going beyond the current proposed changes.

February 2016

Women Veterans' Health Is Focus of Congressional Briefing

On Feb. 22, 2016, the Friends of the VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) hosted a briefing titled "Veterans Health Research: A Focus on Women." APA co-sponsored the event. 

Among the speakers was David J. Shulkin, MD, under secretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs; Elizabeth Yano, PhD, MSPH, of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System; and Sally Haskell, MD, of the Yale School of Medicine and Director of Comprehensive Women's Health at VHA.

June 2015

APA Supports McCain-Feinstein Amendment

In June 2015, APA urged senators to vote in favor on the McCain-Feinstein Amendment #1889 to the Fiscal Year 2016 defense authorization bill. Among its key provisions, the amendment:

  • Reaffirms the prohibition on torture of detainees in U.S. custody.
  • Limits interrogation techniques or any treatment related to interrogation to those included in the Army Field Manual.
  • Broadens the scope of the prohibition against torture to explicitly include all U.S. government entities.
  • Mandates periodic review of the Army Field Manual to ensure it reflects “current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.” 

APA supported Sen. McCain’s similar amendment to the Detainee Welfare Act of 2005 and the inclusion of its provisions in the 2009 Presidential Executive Order “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.” Our support for the FY 2016 amendment was based once again on our fundamental mission to protect and promote human welfare and in recognition of the many psychologists working on behalf of our national security interests.

We have a tremendous opportunity to help shape the laws and policies that directly affect psychology and the populations we work with. We can make a real difference in our society.
—Melba Vasquez, PhD, ABPP, 2011 APA President

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Heather Kelly, PhD 
Director, Military & Veterans Health Policy

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About APA Advocacy

APA represents the largest and most visible national presence advocating for psychology at the federal level. There are three APA government relations offices and two APA-affiliated organizations that engage in government relations activities. 

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