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Defense Bill Provision Named for NJ Reservist [AUDIO]

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, signed by President Barack Obama on Thursday, includes sweeping provisions dealing with sexual assaults in the military, paves the way for the eventual closure of Guantanamo Bay, and also contains a suicide prevention measure named after a New Jersey reservist.

President Obama Holds Bill Signing At White House
President Obama Holds Bill Signing At White House (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

The provision is named for the late Sgt. Coleman Dean of East Brunswick, a member of the Individual Ready Reserve who took his own life in 2008 after serving two tours in Iraq. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) said Sgt. Coleman fell through the cracks because he wasn’t assigned to a particular branch of the military, as specialized units of reservists serve all branches.

“After those tours and during those tours — in fact, in between them — he sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and didn’t really get that treatment and didn’t really get a follow-up,” Holt said.

According to Holt, the provision ensures that state adjutant generals get a list of Individual Ready Reserve members, or those serving in comparable units, for mental health outreach and treatment referrals

“So if there isn’t an Army chain of command that’s going to look after these reservists, at least the adjutant general can step in, do the outreach, refer these people to treatment,” Holt said.

In past defense bills, Holt has secured $80 million for suicide prevention, $40 million each in continuing efforts for the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Holt said he is pushing those agencies to use that money, not just for treatment but for outreach as well.

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