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Moulton unveils mental health plan, shares experience with post-traumatic stress

Moulton unveils mental health plan, shares experience with post-traumatic stress
© Greg Nash

Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Overnight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing 'chaos' Democratic lawmakers lambast Trump over Esper firing as GOP remains mum MORE (D-Mass.), an Iraq War veteran and one of more than 20 Democrats running for president, unveiled his mental health plan Tuesday and opened up about his own experience with post-traumatic stress.

The policy proposal puts veterans at its center but seeks to improve mental health care across the board. The plan would require mental health checkups for veterans along the same lines as physicals, fill all vacancies at the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a mandatory counseling session for every service member returning from a combat deployment within two weeks of arriving home.

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Further expanding benefits for veterans, the plan includes a doubling of Pentagon health professionals and a $500 million increase to its mental health budget.

The proposal also provides funding for mental health screenings for every high school student in the country and establishes 511 as a National Mental Health Crisis Hotline.

The policy is personal for Moulton, who accompanied his announcement with a tweet explaining his own experience with post-traumatic stress.

“When I came back from Iraq I sought help for managing post-traumatic stress. I'm glad I did,” Moulton tweeted. “Today, I'm sharing my experience because I want people to know they're not alone and they should feel empowered to get the treatment they need.”

Beyond experiencing post-traumatic stress himself, Moulton has said he knows fellow service members who have struggled upon returning from deployments. 

"There is still this stigma against mental health care," Moulton said in an interview in March. "Post-traumatic stress is very real. I have had post-traumatic stress and I have a lot of friends who have had it. And I have lost two Marines in my platoon since we have been back."

“Post-traumatic stress is a great example of a mental issue that is curable. I know a lot of vets who have gotten through post-traumatic stress, including myself. So we can fix this, but we need to be investing in it and we are not,” he continued.

The policy announcement comes as Moulton begins a veterans mental health care tour in Massachusetts that will also take him to South Carolina and Nevada, two crucial early primary states.

Despite his focus on health care for veterans, Moulton made sure to note his policy would help all Americans grappling with mental health issues.

“Mental health should become a routine part of healthcare in America: for our troops, our veterans—for everybody. Veterans across the country are opening up about our post-traumatic stress (PTS) and mental health challenges because it is vital that we tell our stories, end the stigma around these issues, and make sure everyone gets the support they need. And it should be a model for everyone else,” he said.