Health leaders of the Ministry of Defense testified today at the hearing of the Senate Defense Affairs Subcommittee.
Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez said the department is focused on preventing suicide among military and family members.
“We recently accepted the recommendations of the Independent Review Committee on Suicide Prevention and Response and will continue to implement strategies to help reverse the heartbreaking trends we have seen both within DOD and across the nation,” he said.
He said that the issue of mental health is an issue that can be discussed today. “During the Vietnam era, for whatever reason, we didn’t talk openly about these kinds of issues that needed to be talked about,” he said.
However, there is still a stigma around discussing mental health crises. Changing the culture takes time. “We’re definitely on the way. But we’re not done yet,” he said.
“It’s not just a medical issue. It’s an issue that involves personnel measures. It’s an issue that involves financial issues. Anything that causes more stress, we need to figure out how to reduce the burden on service members,” Martinez-Lopez said.
“We remain committed to ensuring that combatant commanders have the medical resources necessary to provide long-term care and medical care to our men and women in uniform,” he said.
The department is grateful to this committee for its long-standing support of military medical research that is still critical and relevant to today’s emergencies, he said.
This includes fighting infectious diseases, treating war-torn people and other important areas for warfighters, he said.
Fiscal Year 2024 The 2024 budget provides a balanced, comprehensive strategy that aligns with the Secretary’s priorities, he said.
Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Scott Dingle said, “Army medicine has achieved the highest survival rates for wounded soldiers on and off the battlefield in recent decades. We’ve done it by being agile and adaptable. It’s set a comprehensive system for future operations in harsh environments.”
“Navy Medicine is in a competitive environment of growing lethality, complexity and scope, acting quickly to support the Navy and Marine Corps and save lives,” said Navy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Bruce L. Gillingham.
Another key priority is to ensure that sailors and marines have access to a full range of mental health resources.
“Embedded mental health remains critical to mental health by putting mental health at the forefront as much as possible,” he said.
“Our ability to rapidly deploy and support disaster response around the world makes military medicine unique, but most importantly requires us to be both operationally relevant and clinically ready,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, director general of the Defense Health Agency, and Lt. Gen. Robert I. Miller, surgeon general of the Air Force, also testified.