I was saddened to read about the troubled Army sergeant who is accused of killing five fellow servicemembers this week in Baghdad. However, I know that an incident of that kind – either a murder or a suicide by a servicemember or veteran – is probably more likely to happen after that person returns home. The signature injuries of this prolonged war are Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I have read that the symptoms can appear years after the incident. So, while we can argue about the type and amount of care that sergeant received in theater, I believe our collective efforts could probably be better put to use in finding long-term care solutions here at home.

I recently read about a relatively new non-profit organization called Give An Hour (www.giveanhour.org) that solicits donations of time from the civilian mental health industry to servicemembers and veterans. The organization has a roster of 4,000 licensed mental health professionals in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Servicemembers simply go to the web site to find a licensed counselor in their area and make an appointment. Give An Hour vets the counselors, so that the servicemember can be assured of their credentials. Since its inception in 2005, Give An Hour has donated 12,421 hours of mental health services, which equates to an in-kind donation of more than $1.2 million (assuming a nationwide average counseling rate of $100/hour). They have been endorsed by numerous national mental health organizations.

What I like about this model is that it appears to fill a gap in military and veterans services – either due to location or bureaucratic obstacles to receiving care – at a much reduced cost. Give An Hour states a goal of recruiting 10% of the approximately 400,000 license mental health professionals in the U.S. – with a projected, estimated savings to the military of $4,000 a week in mental health costs. That can add up to some pretty hefty savings for taxpayers and a big fat cut through the red tape for servicemembers and veterans.

Could this model be applied to other apparent needs for veterans? How about financial management advisors? How about job placement services? Again, the military and the VA provides these services and can do it well, but are they convenient for the individual client? Are they easy to access? How long does a servicemmeber or veteran have to wait?

Too often, the military and the VA are expected to provide the entire dedicated pool of professionals to serve all these needs. Like Give An Hour, why not tap into the wealth and capacity of private industry to volunteer their time and expertise? When private industry says that they “support the troops,” this type of effort would truly be putting their money where their mouth is.

Posted by The Bunny in Army, Policy

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  • jwithington

    It’s an interesting dilemma. I was recently talking to someone trying to raise money for a new theater by soliciting corporations and government agencies. When he approached corporations, he was told to come back after he heard how much the government was willing to fund .

    Similarly, I worry that private industry just assumes the VA and military cover all the bases and do not see a need to step in. Perhaps it’s an awareness issue, which posts like these will help to solve.

  • RickWilmes

    Three steps are necessary to solve this problem.

    1. The government needs to leave corporations alone. Ex. Stop bailing out failed companies with tax payer dollars.

    2. Stop “bringing democracy to our enemies.” Instead use overwhelming force to kill our enemies until they no longer exist or they surrender.

    3. Stop printing fiat money to control the economy. Return to the gold standard.

    In other words, a proper system of capitalism properly defended will provide the needed resources to properly care for our military members.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “In other words, a proper system of capitalism properly defended will provide the needed resources to properly care for our military members.”

    It did before, on a much grander scale. It certainly could do again.

  • Benvolio9

    The military should not be relying on private industry. We are the military and should be completely self sufficient. If we are not I fear that we will be headed towards failure. To me if there is a hole in our coverage then we should find a solution, not pray that somebody comes to plug the hole for us.

  • Two points.

    1) For active duty military they don’t like having to give over to private providers who might actually have to adhere to patient confidentiality on the issues discussed between a patient and his provider. ( Try looking at all the caveats in the military’s confidentiality agreements that patients sign when they enter treatment). They prefer to have military doctors so they can get the information if they push.

    Second, the private providers will have to be adequately paid for their services. How many doctors don’t accept TRICARE now because they don’t like how the government pays or how long they take to pay?

  • Fouled Anchor

    Skippy, I think you missed the point of the post with your second comment. Bunny’s talking about a non-profit organization with volunteer docs…no problems with paying them adequately. There are some obviously patriotic mental health professionals out there willing to perform this function pro bono. And depending on the state, some may have a requirement to perform a certain amount of pro bono work periodically…and they get a bit of a tax break too…a good solution for all.

    Regarding patient confidentiality, I would hazard a bet that some military professionals in need of these services are certainly more comfortable talking with non-DoD affiliated providers for that very reason. Many, especially the younger ones, may be very intimidated walking into a military mental health clinic and/or talking with a uniformed provider.

    The organization and service Bunny described is fantastic. One of the causes of the gap in care is that many combat vets have come from the Guard and Reserves. When they return home they are often quite a distance from a military or VA facility. These warriors should be a priority for this organization. Should we be completely self-sufficient as Benvolio9 stated? Maybe, but this is not purely a military issue considering that some patients get DoD healthcare and some get VA healthcare. We should work to fill the gaps, but we should also welcome American patriots who are generous enough to provide their much needed services. I hope the word continues to spread about this worthwhile service.

  • RickWilmes

    Why not have the medical personel on the Comfort fill this Gap as opposed to going to third world countries to “win hearts and minds”?

    The fact of the matter is that the gap in medical services being discussed is an effect. The cause is our government being run on a mixed economy engaging in self-sacrificial wars.

    In order to properly solve this problem, the cause needs to be properly identified and properly understood.

  • Fouled Anchor

    That’s the first I’ve heard that psychiatrists were on the COMFORT. Considering this post and discussion is about mental health (I’ll avoid the obvious), I won’t get into how important and productive the COMFORT mission is, and I don’t see how your comments are relevant.

  • Byron

    Chief, the best thing you can do with Rick is ignore him. He’s a troll. As a troll, he specializes in irrelavancy.

  • Fouled Anchor

    I know, but I couldn’t resist this once. And I was hoping to head off the attempted hijacking. May a coin a new phrase…Blog Pirate?

  • RickWilmes

    How much money is being spent on the Comfort as opposed to mental health for our service members?

    These are the hard choices we need to identify and deal with as our economy continues to drift towards statism. Time for a reality check and if I am the only one who has the courage to speak up so be it.

  • Byron


  • RickWilmes

    Does my vocal opposition honestly think the issues I have raised are not the same issues a corporation will raise when asked to fill the gaps?

  • RickWilmes

    For those of you who disagree with my argument, read Kristina Kaufmann’s article, “Army Families Under Fire” from the give an hour link Bunny provided and than ask yourself this,

    Why not use the money and resources being used on the Comfort mission to help the Army (F)amilies meet their needs ?

  • Jay

    Gents — play nice.

    My concern with this is — if there is a “gap”, fill it! Our Vets deserve no less.

    I have absolutely no probs with funding (via taxes) *whatever* our Vets need. Period.

    I don’t think we have seen the effects of combat stress/traumatic brain injuries (IEDs, etc.) secondary/tertiary yet. This will be a very busy time in the next two decades re: Mil health in the reg Mil system, Tri Care, & VA.

  • RickWilmes


    I agree that our Vets deserve the best care money can buy but you can not tax workers that are not working(except by taxing unemployment insurance which is done) or companies that are not producing. Yesterday, I noticed three more warehouses that are empty on my way to work. Three more businesses that have moved out of the area or gone out of business. I was in the office of my storage unit paying my monthly bill and the manager had a stack of letters he was sending out to individuals late on their rent. He said this was the most late notices(30 to 50 is my guess) he had sent out.

    How many other storage unit companies are experiencing the same thing? How many of those late notices belong to businesses who are storing their products and now can not get to those products until their rent is paid?

    The fact of the matter is that corporations can not help when they are loosing money. Hard choices are going to have to be made and those choices will not be correct when the causes and effects are not properly understood.