Board of Governors Advocates for the Returning Veteran on Capitol Hill
House Budget Plan Passes House
The NLN Board of Governors took to Capitol Hill earlier this month. During the meetings with their congressional delegations, board members focused on the returning war veterans and their need for mental health and substance abuse disorders health care (MH/SUD) as well as their requisite need for employment.
Advocating for increased funding in FY 2013 for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), NLN governors noted that budget reductions for MH/SUD health care are shortsighted fiscal policies that inevitably total more in overall spending as costs are shifted to services such as corrections systems, homeless shelters, and unemployment services. The unintended consequences of cutbacks are taking a devastating toll especially on the most vulnerable patient populations, including America's service men and women and their families. More soldiers than ever before are returning home with the invisible wounds of war, ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to SUD and suicide. Their families struggle as well. Increasingly, they are seeking behavioral health and primary care services in their communities.
In recognizing that service members, veterans, and their families are obtaining care in public and private behavioral health care systems, SAMHSA is well positioned to work with states, territories, tribes, and communities to ensure that needed services are available to America's service men and women and their families. Through its military families initiative, SAMHSA seeks to support America's service men and women — active duty, National Guard, Reserve, and veteran — together with their families and communities by leading efforts to ensure that needed behavioral health services are accessible and that outcomes are positive.
In their visits, board members noted that:
- Although active duty troops and their families are eligible for care from the Department of Defense, a significant number choose not to access those services due to fear of discrimination or the harm receiving treatment for behavioral health issues may have on their military career or that of their spouse.
- There were 301 confirmed or suspected soldier suicides in 2010, including those on active duty and reservists or National Guard troops on an inactive status. This compares with 242 in 2009. The US Army's current suicide rate is about 22 deaths per 100,000, which is above a civilian rate that has been adjusted to match the demographics of the Army. That rate is 18 per 100,000. Only the Marine Corps has a higher suicide rate — 24 per 100,000.
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for female veterans.
- Sexual victimization is a problem in military populations. In the general US population lifetime prevalence of sexual assault is 17 percent and 3 percent for women and men, respectively. The rate of sexual victimization among male military members is roughly the same as general population, but for women in the military, rates of sexual victimization are higher with estimates tending to cluster in the 23 percent to 33 percent range.
The NLN governors also brought forward the fact that veterans find it hard to have their military training classes meet academic requirements for civilian health care professions, including nursing. Giving preference in grants is not enough to smooth the transition of veterans with military health care experience. A national approach to academic credit for military health care training is needed, one which will allow veterans to enter nursing and be guaranteed credit for both military training and experience. Board members noted that it is essential that a rubric for the adoption of enlisted health care training be universally adopted so that all health care professions, including nursing, can build on this education.
The House passed a budget plan 228-191 that calls for limiting discretionary appropriations to $1.028 trillion in fiscal year (FY) 2013 and proposes overhauling the tax code and entitlement programs. The budget plan is $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion spending cap set in the August debt limit deal.
No Democrats voted for the measure, and 10 Republicans voted against it. The ten Republicans who voted against the plan included Representatives Justin Amash (MI), Joe Barton (TX), John Duncan (TN), Chris Gibson (NY), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Walter Jones (NC), David McKinley (WV), Todd Platts (PA), Denny Rehberg (MT), and Ed Whitfield (KY).
The resolution would direct six committees to find $261 billion in cuts to mandatory programs. Along with some discretionary savings, the reductions would replace $98 billion in automatic cuts scheduled to take effect in January. Those recommendations would be packaged into a reconciliation bill that the House could consider as early as May.
The budget plan also proposes repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and implementing a plan to give seniors government payments to help them buy health insurance, either through private plans or Medicare. It also calls for the conversion of the federal share of spending on Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps, into block grants to states. The plan consolidates the tax code into two income brackets — set at 10 percent and 25 percent. It also recommends reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, and repealing the alternative minimum tax.
More Congressional Resignations and Retirements
Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) announced recently that he was resigning his seat in Congress to focus on the governor's race in Washington. Inslee is known as a leader on clean energy issues, working for policies to create clean energy jobs and protect our environment during his time on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. He has also fought to expand access to affordable health care, increase port security, and provide resources for our nation's veterans.
After serving 15 terms in Congress, Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY) announced he will not run for reelection to the House in 2012. Ackerman served on the House Financial and Foreign Affairs Committees.
FROM THE STATES . . .
15,000 Nurses Needed in Florida
A new survey from the Florida Center for Nursing at the University of Central Florida shows Florida is expected to have 15,000 vacancies for registered nurses during 2012. An aging population and new requirements tied to the national health care overhaul are contributing to the shortage. The estimate is based on a survey conducted last year among employers in six nurse-intensive industries. While some recent nursing graduates have been unable to find work in isolated pockets, the statewide demand far exceeds the supply of nurses. The center is projecting the shortage will grow to more than 56,000 by 2025.