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Post-deployment health review

Published (4/10/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Soldiers returning from deployments sometimes experience psychological problems that don’t become apparent until tragedy strikes. Such was the case with one of Rep. Tom Rukavina’s constituents.

“I had a constituent who met with me whose son returned from active duty. … Everything seemed fine, but it wasn’t, and the young gentleman ended up committing suicide,” the Virginia DFLer told members of the House State Government Finance Division on April 7.

Rukavina sponsors HF2118 that he hopes will help prevent similar tragedies in the future. The bill would require the Minnesota National Guard to conduct “health and wellness assessments” for all guard members returning from overseas deployments.

The bill states that the assessments must be conducted between six months and one year after the end of a guard member’s deployment. Col. Eric Ahlness, director of government relations for the guard, said the comprehensive assessments would cover the soldiers’ physical, mental, financial and educational well-being.

“We’re not going to just sit them down and give them one survey to check on their mental health,” he said.

Ahlness said the guard could administer the program using reintegration funds the Legislature appropriated during the last biennium. He said the assessments would be conducted during guard members’ normal drill weekends, so that special arrangements would not have to be made.

The division laid the bill over for possible inclusion in its omnibus finance bill. Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) sponsors the companion, SF1987, which has been laid over by the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Budget and Policy Division for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

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