Board urges all government agencies to “Think Veteran;” Recommends action to improve veteran services
ANNAPOLIS, MD (February 4, 2011) – Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and the Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board submitted its final report to the Maryland General Assembly earlier this week. Brown, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and a veteran of the Iraq War, chairs the Board. The Board’s report makes specific recommendations, including the establishment of a Veterans Subcabinet and legislative action to remove the sunset provision in the original bill that created the Board, to improve the state’s commitment to veterans.
“Governor O’Malley and I understand that one of the most basic obligations we have is to serve those who have served under our nation’s flag. Our veterans face unique challenges and need us to stand up to ensure that they have access to the benefits they’ve earned,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Over the last two years, the Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board has identified gaps in service and recommended action to improve veteran affairs. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and believe we can build on what we’ve done and serve more veterans and more military families.”
The Board’s final report represents more than two years of research, analyses and public meetings. Four workgroups addressed specific challenges in providing access to care and transportation, reaching military families and special populations, and providing sufficient resources for outreach and education. Based on the findings of the workgroups, the Board made 18 specific recommendations, including:
* Legislative action to extend the Maryland Veterans Behavioral Health initiative to continue the expanded reach of behavioral health services for veterans in rural parts of the state;
* Executive action creating a Veterans Subcabinet to develop an Interagency Strategic Action Plan for Veterans and establish clear goals and performance measures through the StateStat office;
* Requirements that the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs identify grant programs applicable to veteran services;
* A commitment to increase revenues in the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund to provide for special short-term needs of Maryland’s veteran population;
* The creation of course content in behavioral health graduate programs that provides mental health professionals with a greater understanding of the behavioral health needs of veterans, military personnel, and their families; and,
* A commitment to increase the number of veterans who receive occupational license and certifications by 20 percent before 2015.
The Advisory Board’s final report urges state agencies to build on the progress already made. The report recommends that agencies make a commitment to “Think Veteran” and make an interdepartmental commitment to improving veteran services. The full list of recommendations can be found in the report’s concluding section.
The Board hosted meetings across the state, inviting veterans, veteran advocates, mental health experts, military families and others to make presentations and guide the Board’s understanding of the unique challenges today’s veterans face. Studies show that one out of every five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are also more likely than veterans of any previous conflict to attempt suicide.
Since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown administration has fought hard to protect and expand veteran services. In 2008, Lt. Governor Brown led efforts to pass the Veterans Behavioral Health Act which established the Board. This legislation provided veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with expanded access to behavioral and mental health services to ease the transition from combat to the community. In 2009, the Maryland General Assembly partnered with Brown to expand this program to all veterans. In November 2009, Brown officially launched the Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans initiative, an outreach campaign to connect veterans with behavioral health services, career training and educational opportunities. Brown also championed efforts to protect veterans’ scholarship and business loan programs. In 2010, Brown launched the Warrior to Worker program and the Helmets2Hardhats initiative to help connect veterans with employment opportunities.
Earlier this week, Brown convened presidents from more than 20 community and public four-year colleges and universities to sign the Maryland Campus Compact for Student Veterans – a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that servicemembers can easily transition from combat to campus.