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May 7, 2019 4:53 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Representative Lee Zeldin Pushes For National Expansion Of Veteran Mental Health Support Program

May 7, 2019 5:00 PM

Roger King, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient, struggled, like others, to permanently adjust to civilian life upon his return from active military duty in 2009.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and also suffered several injuries, and realized that he needed more help in his recovery than he was getting.

It wasn’t until 2013, he said, when he began attending weekly meetings for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Project in Sag Harbor, that he found the right type of care. Eventually, he even became the group’s facilitator.

The Dwyer Project, for short, is a confidential support group for veterans that began in 2012 in four New York counties, Suffolk County being one, and has since expanded to 11 more, including Nassau County.

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin recently introduced legislation to expand the program nationally, so that veterans anywhere can receive the same type of peer-to-peer mental health support that has proven successful in New York. He spearheaded the creation of this program within the state when he was a state senator and is now using his position in Washington, D.C., to introduce it in other areas of the country.

“The Dwyer Program has been hugely successful in Suffolk County, where countless veterans have told me their personal story of how they credit the program for saving their lives, for saving jobs, marriages, keeping families together,” Mr. Zeldin said. Of the four counties where the program began, he added, “Suffolk County far and away has been the most successful, evolving into a better and better program each year that has passed.”

The legislation, H.R. 1749, introduced to the House of Representatives in March, would start a grant program for state and local governments to establish their own Dwyer Project groups within their jurisdictions. So far, the bill has been endorsed by the American Legion, Military-Veterans Advocacy, Blinded Veterans Association and other veteran service organizations.

“I believe that every veteran in America should have access to peer-to-peer support, that every veteran in America should know that there’s someone in their community who will drop everything on a moment’s notice to help them, even if they are a stranger,” Mr. Zeldin said. He pointed out that many veterans return home feeling isolated because they are unaware of how much of a support network is willing to help them in their own community.

Other states do not have programs that follow the same type of model as the Dwyer Project, and veterans often turn to their local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts for guidance, which do not have organized peer-to-peer support services, the congressman said.

In early 2013, Mr. King began seeing a therapist in Noyac, Katherine Mitchell. Their sessions led to some progress, but not enough for someone who was dealing with the ongoing mental health effects of combat. He said he owed Ms. Mitchell a lot of credit, however, particularly because she helped bring the Dwyer Project to the East End.

The program established a group in Sag Harbor later that year and held weekly meetings for veterans to confide in and support one another so they did not feel alone in their struggle. At the time, the closest meeting location was in Yaphank, an hour drive away.

Mr. King, the commander of the VFW Post 9082 in Sag Harbor at the time, attended the group when it first formed and said that it benefited him so much that he pursued the opportunity to become its facilitator the following year. He said that none of his loved ones understood what he was going through but that veterans who attended this group did.

“I’m really happy for it because it gives us the outlet, because veterans only relate to other veterans,” Mr. King explained.

About one to three veterans attend the meetings every Wednesday, but Mr. King said that he is actively communicating with 16 veterans over the phone, some of whom cannot attend every meeting, and others who are not ready to speak in a group setting, where they would have to confront their problems face-to-face.

“You have to be mentally ready to say to yourself, ‘I need something. I need to reach out to somebody, somewhere.’ Because even though it takes a tremendous amount of courage and dedication to join the military, it takes just as much courage and dedication to be able to express that you have an issue with your life because of your experiences through the military,” Mr. King said.

He is in contact with veterans of all ages from a range of military backgrounds, some combat war veterans, like himself, and some active duty veterans. For many of them, overcoming the ramifications of military life is a daily struggle that, often, lasts many years, Mr. King said. One of the newest participants of his group is a Vietnam War veteran who recently started to get flashbacks of his time in war.

On the recent legislation, Mr. King said he appreciates that a nationwide push for the Dwyer Project is happening now, but wishes that it was put in place a long time ago.

“This should’ve been done, I’d say, before the Iraq War, before the Vietnam War. This should’ve been one of the key things to helping veterans and helping reduce the suicide rate of veterans, which is about 22 veterans a day. This should’ve been done years and years ago,” Mr. King said.

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... our man from Shirley serving his country.
May 10, 19 7:43 AM appended by loading...
...still !
By loading... (555), quiogue on May 10, 19 7:43 AM
It would be a start for Lee
By johnj (980), Westhampton on May 10, 19 9:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
johnj your bulb is rather dim. FYI : Congressman Lee Zeldin grew up in Suffolk County, New York, where he graduated from William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach. Congressman Zeldin graduated from the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY) and then Albany Law School, becoming New York's youngest attorney at the time at the age of 23.

After completing the Army ROTC program, Congressman Zeldin served for four years on Active Duty. During that time, he served in different capacities, ...more
By themarlinspike (314), Northern Hemisphere on May 10, 19 10:22 AM
2 members liked this comment
And in case anyone was wondering what the "Full Biography" section of Zeldin's website says, Marlin did us the favor of copy/pasting the whole thing.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (6458), HAMPTON BAYS on May 10, 19 10:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Your comrade's spin wobbles in consideration of these verifiable true facts about Lee Zeldin. Wobble on yourself.
May 10, 19 10:45 AM appended by themarlinspike
AND NOW HERE COMES THE MANDATORY EXTRA LIP FROM THE LOSING LEFT. IT HAS 6341 COMMENTS AND WHAT HAS IT SAID ? I HAVE 289.
By themarlinspike (314), Northern Hemisphere on May 10, 19 10:45 AM
Did you buy a subscription yet? Let's chat again tomorrow, then!
May 10, 19 10:47 AM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
Why are you yelling? No need to get so emotional.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (6458), HAMPTON BAYS on May 10, 19 10:47 AM
It's almost like it was written with the intention of showing Little Lee in a positive light.
By johnj (980), Westhampton on May 10, 19 11:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
A positive light is something people on the left are completely unfamiliar with and irreversibly resistant to.
By themarlinspike (314), Northern Hemisphere on May 11, 19 7:55 AM
Guess one year before reelection campaign is about right timing. Guy is a joke.
By harbor (397), East Hampton on May 10, 19 1:13 PM
FFS some of you people are miserable !
Thank you Mr Zeldin!!!!
By Sturgis (565), Southampton on May 10, 19 3:10 PM
2 members liked this comment
Lee Zeldin has been in Congress for FIVE (5) years and now he remembers our Vets. Better late then never or is it Better never late. Our Vets from the Viet Nam era still haven't got the service they deserve. How many of these guys are still living on the streets and how many Iraq Vets have joined their ranks, on the streets? So, Lee Zeldin, what's taking you so long to act?
By SpeedRacer (142), Southampton on May 10, 19 5:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Orange man bad, Republicans bad. Thanks for your service Lee!
By bigfresh (4317), north sea on May 10, 19 6:31 PM
No more Mr. Nice Guy. The service could be far better.


"By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another four to eight degrees. What I'm saying is the planet's on (expletive) fire," said Nye, actually setting fire to a globe.

"There are a lot of things we could do to put it out – are any of them free? No, of course not. Nothing's free, you idiots. Grow the (expletive) up. You're not children anymore. I didn't ...more
By Mr. Z (11290), North Sea on May 13, 19 11:35 PM
Lee Zeldin, working hard for the people of the East End. Oh, wait...
By banned (186), Hampton Bays on May 11, 19 2:36 AM
Bitter Fred@home !
By bigfresh (4317), north sea on May 11, 19 8:34 AM
More jibberish, why you calling out my name?
By Fred s (2494), Southampton on May 11, 19 8:38 AM
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