- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Army is worried about losing its civilian behavioral health care providers — who help troops deal with post traumatic stress disorder and other maladies — if they are forced to take 22 days of unpaid leave this year, an Army official said Tuesday.

About 60 percent of the Army’s 4,500 behavioral health care workers are civilians who would be subject to furloughs under the military’s spending reduction plan, said Col. Rebecca Porter, chief of behavioral health in the Office of the Army Surgeon General.

Speaking at breakfast meeting of a defense writers group in Washington, Col. Porter said the furloughs will result in longer wait times for care and fewer clinic hours for troops and their families.

The Pentagon plans to furlough nearly 800,000 civilians to meet spending restrictions under the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. The furloughs will begin April 26, and continue through Sept. 30, forcing civilians to take one less day of unpaid work each week for 22 weeks.

Col. Porter said the Army has worked hard to double the number of its health care providers and is doing its best to retain them.

“To see them looking elsewhere because they don’t have the job security they thought they were going to have, and they don’t know how much the organization or institution supports them in what they’re trying to do — it is a morale issue,” she said.

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