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Carson Amendment Protects Service Members' Mental Health

May 25, 2011
Press Release

May 25, 2011            


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed an amendment authored by Congressman André Carson that will improve mental health assessments for members of the U.S. military.

Currently, service members only receive mental health screening before and after deployment. The Carson amendment, which was adopted with unanimous support as part of the Defense Authorization bill, will ensure that screenings are also provided during deployment overseas.

“Injuries and trauma are most likely to occur during deployment,” said Congressman Carson. “By adding regular screenings, we can improve early detection and treatment of mental illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Carson added, “In too many tragic cases, undiagnosed mental illness has resulted in domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide.”

The amendment also ensures that each assessment includes a full review of medical records from both the Department of Veterans Affairs and from past assignments to other units and branches of service. This process is frequently omitted from current screenings. 

Gregg Keesling is an Indianapolis resident whose son, Chancellor Keesling, committed suicide in June 2009 while on his second deployment in Iraq. Keesling said that his son had been put on suicide watch during his first deployment, but due to the American Portability Act that prevents battlefield trauma from being shared with new units, his commander during his second deployment did not know about it.

“Congressman Carson’s amendment is about more than just extra screenings,” said Keesling. “It changes the lack information-sharing that currently exists. If this bill was in place prior to my son’s second deployment it could have saved his life.”

Indianapolis resident Shannon Blaylock lost her brother, Sergeant Jacob Blaylock, who served in Iraq. While Jacob’s condition was detected after his deployment ended, he took his life the day before necessary medication arrived in the mail.

Jacob had a series of rescheduled appointments, both on Jacob’s part and the VA’s, before he was finally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was running late for work on the day that he was to receive his medication, so the VA sent it to him in the mail.

Blaylock said, “Had Jacob been screened in Iraq prior to coming home, perhaps he could have been offered the counseling necessary to overcome his post-traumatic stress before returning to civilian life. At the very least, he could have received his medication sooner and maybe he’d still be here today.”