WASHINGTON, D.C. -U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT), a member of the Committee, sent a letter this week urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to dedicate additional funding to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD).
Congress last year passed an unprecedented budget increase for VA in Fiscal Year 2008 which included funds for the NCPTSD. In their letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake, Senators Akaka and Sanders called for an additional $2 million for the NCPTSD above the previous year's funding level. The Center is a leader in research and education on PTSD, and provides clinical tools and guidance to clinicians around the country.
"The National Center for PTSD continues to make valuable contributions to the understanding and treatment of PTSD, and America's veterans are better off thanks to their work. Additional funding will enable them to address critical issues and facilitate better care for veterans. It is my hope that Secretary Peake will support the Center for PTSD with adequate funding in the years to come," said Chairman Akaka.
In recent years, the Center for PTSD has been called on to dramatically expand its mission and conduct research on a larger scale. At the same time, an increasing number of servicemembers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. However, the Center's budget has increased by less than 10 percent in the past half-decade. Due to limited funding, the Center's capacity to continue its work is severely restricted, and staff levels have been reduced since 1999.
Chairman Akaka and Senator Sander's letter is copied below:
January 24, 2008
The Honorable James B. Peake, M.D.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Peake,
We are writing to voice our support for additional funding for the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD). The Center has made invaluable contributions to the treatment and understanding of PTSD and additional funding for the National Center is clearly warranted.
In our view, the NCPTSD is of the utmost importance to veterans and the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Center has emerged as the world leader in research and education on PTSD and provides essential clinical tools and guidance to facilities around the country. The Center has made an unprecedented effort to promote new therapies and methods to VA clinicians. Some of the most effective therapies addressing PTSD have been developed by clinicians at the Center. Ongoing research promises advances in understanding gender differences in PTSD and the effects of comorbid disorders, and in developing more effective therapies.
In spite of these contributions and even as the Center's mission has expanded to address a broader range of issues and conduct research on a larger scale, the budget for the Center has stagnated. The Center's budget has increased by a mere 9% since 2003, from $9.1 to $10 million, and has been reduced from the 2005 high of $10.1 million. Due to this limited funding, the Center's capacity to continue its work is severely restricted. Staff levels have steadily decreased since 1999, from 97.4 FTEE to 87.26 in 2007. Further, its ability to attract nonrecurring supplemental funding from other sources is endangered by insufficient resources.
Due in part to the achievements of the Center, the demand for NCPTSD educational and clinical tools continues to grow. Over 1.5 million servicemembers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as they return home and readjust to civilian life, many will face PTSD. In addition, millions of older veterans continue to seek services from VA for PTSD. Demand for the products and services of the NCPTSD will continue to grow in the years ahead, and additional funding will allow the Center to meet this demand.
In the face of rising demand and the need for more research, the National Center clearly requires additional funding in 2008 and beyond. Congress has supported an unprecedented budget increase for VA in Fiscal Year 2008, and included funds for the NCPTSD. The report accompanying the Senate-passed VA appropriations bill noted the lack of budget support for the NCPTSD in this time of war. We therefore request that an additional $2.0 million over Fiscal Year 2007 levels be dedicated to the Center in Fiscal Year 2008 and that this funding be a repeated and lasting augmentation of its budget. This funding will provide the support necessary to continue to the invaluable work of the NCPTSD.
We appreciate your dedication to these issues, and look forward to working with you in the year ahead to improve services for America's veterans.
Daniel K. Akaka