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March 6, 2009 / Brooklyn news / Politics / Bay Ridge / McMahon on Line 1

McMahon on line 1: Ridge Rep. writes first bill — and lands key post

The Brooklyn Paper

This was a big week for new Rep. Mike McMahon — the Bay Ridge congressman not only submitted his first bill, but he was voted to be the whip of the three dozen or so other freshman Democrats in the House.

So, naturally, he was on the phone with The Brooklyn Paper on Friday, the latest installment in our regular feature, “McMahon on line 1.”

First on the agenda, the bill, which is officially called the “Veterans Mental Health Screening and Assessment Act,” or HR 1308. Its main provision calls for all returning soldiers to participate in mandatory — and confidential — one-to-one suicide and post-traumatic stress screenings with licensed mental health professionals.

Given that the Army just reported the highest level of suicides among soldiers since records started being kept 28 years ago, it’s hard to imagine that Congress needs to pass a bill to get proper post-war mental health treatment, but, apparently, it does.

“The reason for the bill is that the current screening is done when soldiers land, and in front of other soldiers,” McMahon said. “It’s handled really poorly because a lot of vets won’t talk about their stress in public like that.”

McMahon added that the current screening slightly delays a soldier’s reunion with his family, so there’s a disincentive to give a full story to a health worker.

“And sometimes, they’re just afraid to admit it,” McMahon added. “So we want them to do it more professional and more meaningfully. Caring for our veterans is a basic function of the federal government.”

Speaking of basic functions of government, McMahon got a chance to experience another one when he handed in the bill itself.

Yes, even in this age of Congressmen who Twitter from the floor of the House, submitting a bill still means writing it, printing it out and dropping in the hopper.

“It is literally a hopper,” he said. “You walk up and drop it in.”

So you could put any bill in there — “National Brooklyn Paper Appreciation Day,” “The Americans for Cheaper Concert Tickets Act,” etc.

“Well, not any bill,” McMahon said. “But any bill that is within the power of the Congress. No one is stopping you. You walk down and drop it in.”

Second on the agenda was McMahon’s ascension to his first leadership post: he’s now the whip of all 35 Democratic freshman in the House.

No, that doesn’t give him the power of a Steny Hoyer, but it does mean he’s well liked, which is almost as important. McMahon said the job is about “keeping the information flowing between the House leadership and the freshman class, so each side knows what the other is thinking.”

Why, we asked McMahon, did his fellow lawmakers think he’d be good at that, given that he, too, is a freshman?

“In our meetings as a group, I think they saw that I have a fundamental knowledge of the legislative process,” said the former City Councilman.

In other words, the rest of the freshman class is a bunch of hillbillies and farmers, right?

“No,” McMahon said. “This is the brightest and most dynamic freshman class ever!”

Spoken like a freshman whip.

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Thomas from Rutherford, NJ says:
Is this McMahon's Catch-22 Bill?

"(c) Return to United States- The Secretary of Defense may not prohibit a member of the Armed Forces from returning to the United States by reason of any result or determination made pursuant to a screening conducted under subsection (a)."
March 7, 2009, 11:14 am
arjo from NYC says:
Thomas from Rutherford, NJ says: "Is this McMahon's Catch-22 Bill?"

But subsection (a) says:
"(a) Mandatory Screenings- The Secretary of Defense shall carry out a mandatory, face-to-face, and confidential mental health and traumatic brain injury screening conducted by a licensed medical professional, for each member of the Armed Forces, during the period beginning 90 days after the date on which the member completes a deployment in support of a contingency operation and ending 180 days after such date."
March 9, 2009, 11:10 am
Thomas from Rutherford, NY says:
arjo, how does that contradict my claim that subsection (c) opens the door for a Catch 22 ?
March 9, 2009, 2:43 pm
Jerry from Bklyn says:
the catch 22 you people are discussing is what, exactly? that they can be returned to the US regardless of screening results?
March 9, 2009, 11:32 pm
Susan from Homedale says:
Wow you people are dense. Thomas has a great insight, or a great sense of humor, or both.

This really could become a Catch 22.

So many soldiers are overextended through backdoor drafts and want to go home.

Now, all they have to do is pretend they are psychologically disturbed, and according to subsection (c) they have to be sent home regardless of what the Secretary of Defense says.

But a soldier would have to be in his right mind to pull off something like that.

So the shrinks won't diagnose them as being psychologically disturbed, and therefore the soldiers will have to stay on the front lines.

It really is like the scene from Heller's Catch-22 when he explains what a Catch-22 meant.

The rest of the people on this comment board must have never read the book.
March 10, 2009, 12:41 pm
Robbie from Brooklyn says:
Susan from Homedale says: "Wow you people are dense."

Not if you're looking at this bill seriously.

"Catch 22" might be a nice literary allusion - but it doesn't relect on the bill.
The bill's point is to reduce suicides and manage PTSD via improved screenings & treatment.
It's not *meant* to help those who just "pretend they are psychologically disturbed," aren't a PTSD/suicide risk, and don't need the psych help.
March 15, 2009, 10:17 am

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