National Alliance on Mental Illness Veterans Council
Purpose Prize Fellow 2010
Miller advocates for mentally ill veterans and their families through a grassroots council that aims to make the federal government more responsive to returned soldiers’ needs.
Years ago, Sally Miller observed that her husband, a Vietnam War veteran, was showing signs of an impending mental health crisis – and it wasn’t his first. His next appointment with a psychiatrist was weeks away, and she worried that he could land in the emergency room, jail or worse without immediate treatment.
So Miller packed a picnic basket and her knitting and headed for the local office of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). When she got there, she told the receptionist, “It is imperative that we get my husband in to see his doctor before he has another breakdown. I will just sit here as long as necessary. Please get to me as soon as you can.”
After a long wait, Miller succeeded in securing an appointment for her husband. It’s no surprise that her motto is, “Things begin by showing up.” She proved this to be true when attending a public meeting in 2005 to try and save a local VA hospital from closure. Although already a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Miller heard about the NAMI Veterans Council for the first time and began to focus her advocacy on veterans and their families.
Starting as a volunteer member of the council and later elected to chair the group in 2007, Miller has brought veterans’ families to the table in improving services for veterans in need nationally. As she has become a prominent spokesperson on veterans’ issues, she helped establish mental health education programs for families in VA facilities in 49 states and helped add a family member position to the VA’s Committee on Care of Veterans with Serious Mental Illness.