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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
December 7, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University journalism student Ilona Meagher, who has become a leading voice for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and earlier this year published a book on the topic, will testify on Wednesday, Dec. 12, before a congressional committee.
Meagher is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at a hearing to examine current mental health care available to our nation’s veterans.
The hearing will focus on two recent reports: a National Alliance to End Homelessness study showing that one out of four homeless are veterans and a CBS News report that found the rate of suicide among veterans is double that of the general population.
The issue of veterans’ difficulties upon reentering civilian life is close to the heart of Meagher, a 41-year-old former flight attendant turned advocate. In 2005, after being moved by a news account of veterans of Iraq who had committed suicide, Meagher began collecting media reports of combat-related PTSD incidents.
Eventually her work developed into the “PTSD Timeline” that is now maintained online by ePluribus Media, a citizen-journalism initiative. It was the first public collection of possible, probable and confirmed reports of post-combat reintegration difficulties. The timeline has been accessed by dozens of media outlets and government offices.
Meagher also launched an online blog, “PTSD Combat: Winning the War Within.” In the spring of 2006, her work drew the attention of Ig Publishing in New York, which asked her to write a book on the plight of returning veterans. Meagher devoted herself to the project, reading all she could on PTSD and interviewing veterans, their family members, veterans’ advocates and medical experts.
Her book, “Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops,” was published in May 2007.
Meagher is not only preparing to testify before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs but also is helping to shape the hearing agenda at the request of Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA).
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Meagher said. “I see myself representing other concerned Americans who, after hearing of the reintegration difficulties of some of our returning troops and veterans, may find themselves saying, ‘We can do better by them.’ ”
Since becoming an advocate for veterans with PTSD, Meagher has been quoted widely in the media, ranging from The New York Times to Pat Buchanan’s magazine, The American Conservative. In August, she served as a panel member, along with Gen. Wesley Clark, at the annual convention of the popular liberal blog, the Daily Kos. She even received a phone call one morning from presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, who had read her book.
“Being called to testify is the grand culmination of two years of steady work on this issue for me,” Meagher said. “To have the chance to advocate for our military families and perhaps move the issues that are important to them forward is a great return on the time I've invested.”