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New program would connect veterans overcoming ‘mental wounds of war’

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When Iraq War veteran PFC Joseph P. Dwyer returned home from combat, he had serious psychological and emotional wounds, known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

After a long battle, reports show he died by suicide in 2008 after taking prescription pills and inhaling fumes from a computer cleaner aerosol. He was 31.

After his death, New York State created the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program to connect veterans suffering from PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, by connecting them to other veterans experiencing similar issues.

With a successful track record and peer-to-peer counseling in New York State serving thousands of veterans, legislators are aiming to expand the program throughout the nation and expand the impact to millions of returning service men and women.

The program, if passed, would create a federal grant for state and local entities, non-profits serving veterans and veteran service organizations to implement the program in their communities.

“I’ve spoken directly with many Virginia veterans who are working to overcome the mental wounds of war. Often, they tell me about how they find immense strength in sharing their stories, their experiences and their triumphs with their fellow Veterans,” said U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-07). “That’s why I’m proud to help introduce this legislation 0- alongside both Democrats and Republicans – to make sure these veterans are connected with even more of the resources they deserve. These kinds of initiatives – programs that connect veterans to other veterans with similar conditions and circumstances – are often critical in building pathways to hope, preventing veteran suicide and achieving personal health and wellness.”

Last year, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House voted to pass Spanberger’s legislation to increase federal support for veteran suicide prevention as the Veterans Crisis Line transitioned to the universal 9-8-8 hotline.


If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.