Legislation designed to help National Guard members and their families deal with the many challenges they face is being introduced today by two Iowans in Congress. Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, says everyone talks about wanting to support the troops, but the families of those deployed citizen-soldiers are sometimes forgotten.
Harkin says "We’re falling short in supporting the families of Guard and Reserve personnel who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. These families are especially vulnerable because of their isolation, their distances from military bases and their lack of access to the services that active-duty military families can draw upon." He says some National Guard members are on their third or even their fourth deployments since the war on terror began.
Harkin says "With some deployments being stretched out to 16 months, the stresses on their families are acute. Their children are at a greater risk for depression and behavioral disorders or academic problems and long family separations often result in financial difficulties and troubled marriages." Harkin and Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley are introducing the "Coming Together for Guard and Reserve Families Act."
Harkin says 25-million dollars would be allotted for the programs in the bill, which he says will target several areas. Harkin says the bill would: expand the existing family assistance program, expand the V-A Disabled Transition Assistance program, which makes sure families have access to counseling and mental health services. He says there are few resources for the families of Guard and Reserve members who are wounded or experience mental illness.
The bill would also provide outreach to professionals who serve children, including child care providers and teachers, to alert them to the special needs of kids in military families, especially those with a parent deployed in a war zone. It would ensure families receive mental health information six months post-deployment.
Forty-one percent of Guard members and Reservists report symptoms of mental illness within six months of returning home. Harkin says the legislation would also create a family-to-family mentoring program to enable military spouses to serve as peer counselors to other spouses and family members.