New, Unfunded Law Expands PTSD Treatment for Texas Veterans

State & Regional

Veterans are set to lose Medicaid coverage under both health care plans proposed to overhaul the country’s health care system.

The Center for American Progress estimates nearly 72,000 veterans in Texas would lose Medicaid coverage by 2026, under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) proposed by House Republicans.

The U.S. Senate’s version, which was unveiled Thursday, calls for bigger Medicaid cuts, but phased out more slowly.

Meanwhile, discussions are underway in Texas to try to improve services and expand care for veterans at the “State of the Veteran Family Symposium” Friday.

Presented by the School of Social Work and the Veteran Spouse Network at The University of Texas at Austin, conference organizers asked veterans and their families the top issues they face in Texas and what kind of support they need.

The most pressing issues: employment and higher education for veteran spouses, children’s needs, and mental health care for entire families.

“It doesn’t have to be like this anymore,” said Steven Thornhill.

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Thornhill served for five years and when (he) left Iraq for the last time, Thornhill said, he came home a different person.

“It took me about ten years to really realize that I needed to do something,” he said.

Thornhill was treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and now he’s on a mission to help others.

He’s set to graduate from Texas State University with a master’s degree in social work in August.

“We’re seeing the veteran community step up and work on it, I think a lot harder than we are seeing our lawmakers work on it,” Thornhill said.

State lawmakers passed a proposal this session to establish the National Warrior Resiliency Center in San Antonio to provide PTSD treatment for veterans across Texas, but the legislature did not fund it.

“There is no money in this budget this time for this program,” State Rep. Roland Gutierrez said.

The San Antonio Democrat requested  $2 million to pay for veterans and their families travel and treatment.

The author of the proposal, Rep. Gutierrez explained, “That money was directed specially to bring veterans from East Texas, West Texas, North Texas to the closest region.” That would have been at Fort Hood in Killeen, Fort Bliss in El Paso, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. At ‘STRONG STAR Consortium’ in San Antonio, doctors began researching PTSD treatments in 2008 with $35 million from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“We’re rebranding what’s already in existence,” Gutierrez said.

Now known as The National Warrior Resiliency Center, there is research and psychiatric treatment of PTSD for veterans and families.

“Within three to four weeks of intensive psychiatric treatment, people were doing better, people were going home and feeling better about themselves, their families, and their future. Not being scared,” Gutierrez said.

The National Warrior Resiliency Center focuses on treatments outside of prescription medications.

“Everybody calls it ‘zombie-it is,’ nobody wants to be on five, six, eleven medications when they feel completely stoned out of their minds,” Thornhill said.

Gutierrez plans to come back next session to try to secure funding for the National Warrior Resiliency Center in 2019, to expand PTSD treatment statewide.

Thornhill said, “We really do disservice to ourselves, to our families, and to the veteran community as a whole not to address it.”

To veterans struggling, Thornhill said, “You don’t have to be miserable anymore you don’t have to be as angry.”

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