Cost of Mental Health Programs for Soldiers Is High

A four-year-old Pentagon effort to improve psychological health services across the military is spending tens of millions — some of it at Joint Base Lewis-McChord — without providing a clear picture of how the money is used, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report reflects the Pentagon's rush to expand research on post-traumatic stress through the Defense Centers of Excellence, which oversees a program at Lewis-McChord that develops mental health applications and spent $21.9 million last year.

It is the second report this year to criticize the Defense Centers of Excellence; both were produced by the GAO, the non-partisan investigating arm of Congress.

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The June 30 report reflects the Pentagon's push to fund psychological health programs in the wake of critical stories showing poor care of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The report notes that 44,000 service members have been wounded in the wars.

“No limits were imposed on (psychological health) and (traumatic brain injury) budget requests, and no trade-off decisions were made,” a defense official told the GAO about the 2009 budgeting process for the Defense Centers of Excellence.

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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