Testimony by David Falcon, Staff Attorney for Veterans Legal Assistance Project, before New York City Council Committee on Veterans: Proposed Res. No. 747-A: Resolution recognizing this and every June as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month in New York City
June 16, 2015
Chair Ulrich, Council Members, and staff, good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to testify about the Proposed Resolution No. 747-A, recognizing this and every June as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month in New York City. My name is David Falcon and I am the Staff Attorney for the Veterans Legal Assistance Project at the New York Legal Assistance Group, a nonprofit law office dedicated to providing free legal services in civil law matters to low-income New Yorkers. I am also a Tech Sergeant in the New York Air National Guard at the 109th. NYLAG serves immigrants, seniors, the homebound, families facing foreclosure, renters facing eviction, low-income consumers, those in need of government assistance, children in need of special education, domestic violence victims, persons with disabilities, patients with chronic illness or disease, low-wage workers, low-income members of the LGBTQ community, Holocaust survivors, veterans, as well as others in need of free legal services.
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), up to 20% of veterans returning from wars ranging from Vietnam to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD from their combat experience. Left untreated, and often undiagnosed, PTSD and its symptoms can have a truly devastating effect on the lives of veterans. Veterans suffering from undiagnosed or untreated PTSD have trouble integrating into civilian society and often succumb to addiction and homelessness. Furthermore, proper screening can lead to diagnosis of other sustained injury or disability. Presently, I am assisting a veteran who received a diagnosis for PTSD, which ultimately led to the discovery of a previously undiagnosed Traumatic Brain Injury. For every veteran that receives proper screening for PTSD, we increase the likelihood of diagnosing other illnesses, thereby improving the veteran’s quality of life. Veterans who risked their lives to serve our country deserve better than that and it is critical that returning veterans receive the mental health care they need to ensure that they are able to reintegrate with their communities.
NYLAG is proud to be part of the City Council’s Veterans Legal Services Initiative, which is aimed at providing comprehensive services to veterans, including mental health, job training, and legal services. Without mental health services, many veterans would be unable to access and leverage the other services provided by City agencies and nonprofit organizations. Veterans whose PTSD has been properly treated are able to maintain jobs, contribute to their communities, and live normal lives. It is important to recognize the necessity of services for PTSD victims and NYLAG strongly encourages the Council to vote to recognize this and every June as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month in New York City.
Staff Attorney, Veterans Legal Assistance Project