MVP Networking Luncheon

I hosted the first in what I hope is a series of informal MVP networking luncheon/happy hour meetings here at APA on January 23rd , and was thrilled that so many of you were able to join me.  There were DoD and VA psychologists, other agency personnel, Hill staffers, Veterans Service Organizations representatives, research and human rights organization experts, graduate students, suicide prevention activists, and consultants from the full spectrum of psychological research, clinical work, and operations.  It was a great opportunity to share our 2015 APA MVP priorities (hot off the presses!) and connect with each other about areas of potential collaboration in the coming year.  I’m attaching our MVP 2015 briefing sheet.

 

President’s Budget Request for FY16

President Obama just released his proposed FY16 federal budget this past Monday, and it will take some time to sift through the details.  Of note – the VA’s research account is slated for a nice increase, up from $589 million in current funding to $622 million in FY16.  APA is a very active member on the executive committee of the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (known as FOVA), and we have been relentless in advocating on the Hill and with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the incredible VA intramural research program.  I’d like to think we can take some credit for this increase – but equal (or more) credit of course goes to the great new team at the helm of VA’s Office of Research and Development, who speak loudly and clearly about what that program does with relatively little money.

 

In less good news, the FY16 Obama administration budget would cut DoD’s basic research (6.1 level) account rather substantially.  At Monday’s budget rollout hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, I asked Dr. Patricia Falcone, the Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, why.  Dr. Falcone initially said I was mistaken.  I showed her the document.  Then she said she didn’t have an answer for that but probably needed to find out.  I agreed that she did need to find out and that we’d be following up.  More on that later – the university community in particular is already up in arms.

 

News from our APA Education Directorate: Congress Increases Support for GPE to Focus on Military and Veteran Populations

Late last year, the President signed the FY15 Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act (aka the Omnibus Resolution), which included a $1 million increase to the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program.  In its accompanying report language, Congress directed the Health Resources and Services Administration to “devote the increase to the Graduate Psychology Education Program for a special effort to focus additional grants on the inter-professional training of doctoral psychology graduate students and interns to address the psychological needs of military personnel, veterans and their families in civilian and community-based settings, including those in rural areas.”  APA’s Education Government Relations team, led by Karen Studwell, is responsible for this increase to the GPE program and kicks off its 2016 GPE Advocacy Campaign in February.  Staff will be meeting with key appropriators on Capitol Hill to encourage additional investments in graduate psychology education and training programs, including those that serve returning servicemembers, veterans and their families.

 

Progress on VA-RxP Legislation

As many of you know, I drafted a bill last year with Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-TX) staff to grant prescribing authority for specially trained and certified psychologists in the VA system comparable to legal authority that already exists in DoD, other federal systems, and some states and territories.  He (and we) had been seeking a Republican co-sponsor for the bill last session, and I went in to meet with him again this month to discuss his interest in introducing the bill this session.  Dr. Kevin McGuinness and Dr. Morgan Sammons accompanied me and we had a terrific meeting – we’ve got renewed energy around this bill and some new support that we’re capitalizing on as we speak.  More for you as things unfold.

 

Psychological Science and Intelligence-Gathering in the 21st Century

On January 29th, I sat in for a panel discussion of Interrogation in the 21st Century: Merging Science and Human Rights, sponsored by the New America Foundation.  The panel discussants included psychologists Chris Meissner (Iowa State University) and Melissa Russano (Roger Williams University), who conduct research in ethical, effective interrogation methods, as well as Col. (RET) Steve Kleinman, a former Air Force intelligence officer, and Mark Fallon, former deputy assistant director of the Naval Criminal Intelligence Service.  All four are involved in the federally-funded research enterprise designed to bring together research and operational expertise to advance intelligence gathering.

 

Statement Following Death of Dr. Timothy Fjordbak at El Paso VA

I worked with some of you on this, but want to make sure that all of you saw the formal statement APA put out following the murder of psychologist and APA member Dr. Timothy Fjordbak in early January:  “WASHINGTON - The American Psychological Association issued the following statement regarding the shooting death of Timothy Fjordbak, PsyD: We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Dr. Timothy Fjordbak, a psychologist serving our nation's veterans at the El Paso VA Medical Center. Dr. Fjordbak was a member of the American Psychological Association for 25 years, and of our Division 40, the Society for Clinical Neuropsychology, for 18 years. On behalf of our 130,000 members and affiliates, we extend our condolences to Dr. Fjordbak's family, friends and colleagues.  Fjordbak, 63, was shot to death Tuesday at the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System at Fort Bliss, where he worked. According to news reports, Fjordbak left private practice after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because he wanted to work with military veterans.”

 

COMING IN FEBRUARY:

  • LOTS of appropriations detail (the good, the bad, and the ugly)
  • LOTS of Hill visits to push MVP priorities
  • A Washington visit from AVAPL, the organization representing VA psychologists