In this Issue

APA military psychology news

Highlights of recent initiatives: the new Congress and veterans' issues; and keeping up with news about the federal budget.

By Diane Elmore, Heather O'Beirne Kelly, and Ben Vonachen, MA

APA is committed to supporting military service members, veterans, and their families through training and workforce development, federal advocacy, information dissemination initiatives, and key collaborations. This section highlights some of APA’s recent initiatives related to service members, veterans, and their families.

From APA: the new Congress and veterans’ issues

As the 113th Congress was seated in January, APA’s government relations staff prepared for the new session and the arrival of more than 95 new members in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The 113th Congress is one of the most diverse in recent memory, with record numbers of women (98); Latinos (31); and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT; seven) legislators elected this past November. In terms of military experience, 24 senators and 88 representatives have a history of service in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, and/or Reserves. One member of this year’s freshman class is Alan Lowenthal, PhD, a former professor of community psychology at California State University, Long Beach, who was elected to California’s 47th congressional district. Rep. Alan Lowenthal joins Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif, the only other psychologists currently serving in Congress.

The 113th Congress continues to have split control, with Republicans retaining a majority in the House of Representatives by a 233 to 200 margin (along with two vacancies). Senate Democrats grew their majority to 53 members (plus an additional two registered Independents, who have indicated their preference to caucus with the Democratic Party), and the remaining 45 senators will caucus with the Republican Party. While APA lost some key champions on issues of importance to psychology and military issues in the last election, the new Congress offers an exciting opportunity to foster new relationships on both sides of the political aisle to further advance the APA military/veterans advocacy agenda.

Of particular interest to Div. 19 may be the reorganization of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over armed services and veterans’ issues, and resulting shifts in programmatic and funding priorities. Many of the members (including those in leadership positions) of the House and Senate committees on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC and SVAC) are new either to the committee or to Congress itself, as are their staff. In the past several weeks, APA’s Heather Kelly and colleagues from a coalition focusing on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research program have been meeting with staff and members of Congress on HVAC and SVAC. What is clear thus far is that most members of the committees list veterans’ mental health (typically including posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and suicide) as a priority for their legislative work in the new congressional session. At the end of this month, APA’s Diane Elmore has coordinated a lobby day for the executive committee of the Association of VA Psychologist Leaders, during which they will meet Capitol Hill staff to further discuss these topics and others, such as mental health care staffing and access to treatment within the VA system.

Heather and Diane will also begin meeting with key staff and members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees (HASC and SASC) in the coming weeks to discuss their legislative priorities in the new Congress and outline possible areas of collaboration. More in-depth discussions about Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations for defense and VA research portfolios and other psychology-relevant programs will depend on the outcomes of budget negotiations and decisions about funding mechanisms for the remainder Fiscal Year 2013.

APA’s military/veterans team of the Government Relations staff greatly appreciates the input of and collaboration with Div. 19 members. Please feel free to contact us at any time to update us on clinical and research issues of importance to the Division, and visit our website  to keep up to date on our APA military/veterans advocacy and other activities. 

From APA: keeping up with news about the federal budget

Sequestration—the provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that would enact automatic across-the-board spending cuts if Congress doesn’t make progress on deficit reduction—remains a threat to defense and nondefense accounts. APA and other science organizations became active in a coalition to help educate Congress about the consequences of nondefense cuts. It was clear, however, especially to science organizations like APA, that defense and nondefense groups should combine forces. Both sides of the federal budget are facing devastating cuts. Now defense and nondefense groups are working together, urging Congress to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not rely solely on spending cuts. APA Science staffer Patricia Kobor keeps members up to date on federal budget news and relevant APA advocacy through the Federal Budget Blog.