skip navigation
Support KUOW

Senator Murray Unveils Military Health Care Bill

Kate Elston

Washington Senator Patty Murray unveiled legislation Monday that would revamp mental health care for those in the military. It comes after investigation of misdiagnosed or mistreated cases of post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) all across the military. KUOW's Kate Elston was at Murray's press conference, and explains.


Murray's legislation is called the Mental Health ACCESS Act of 2012. It would expand mental health services for military families, establish peer counseling among vets, and it would make mental–health screening consistent among all military hospitals.

Murray: "I'm focused on making sure if someone asks for care, they get that care and they get good care, they get properly diagnosed and they're not told to wait for care."

The senator's bill comes after an investigation of Joint Base Lewis–McChord's Madigan hospital earlier this year. That investigation found doctors were often reversing or delaying PTSD diagnoses. Some doctors were also using questionable psychological tests that have since been discredited.

At the press conference, Murray was accompanied by two veterans and military wives. They spoke about the internal injuries brought home from the Middle East. Sergeant David Leavitt was deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan.

After his first return to the states, he says he drank heavily, had a hard time holding down a job, and isolated himself from his family. He thought if he went back to the Middle East a second time, he would be back to normal. He wasn't.

Leavitt: "When I was deployed I found myself having a difficult time. The nightmares were still there. I was suffering from severe depression. I decided to ask for help."

Weeks later, he finally got help overseas, but it didn't follow him back home. Leavitt says some of his superiors accused him of saying he had PTSD just to get out of service.

Leavitt: "I feel like I'm in another combat zone. This time I'm fighting my own people."

Leavitt says he tried to commit suicide while in his third deployment. That death would have made him another statistic.

Senator Murray has said more active servicemen die from suicide than combat. And she says a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes.

Murray's legislation may have to wait until next legislative session. It's unclear if congress will get to the bill before August recess.

I'm Kate Elston for KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW