By Debbie Gregory.
In April, 2014, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers (MEPS) Act, S. 2231, into the U.S. Senate. The bill was read twice and then referred to the Senate Committee on Armed Services. From there, the bill never gained traction and has remained buried within the committee.
On March 4, 2015 Sen. Portman teamed up with Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to introduce the MEPS Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill that aims to improve mental health services for service members from the start of their enlistment.
The MEPS Act would call for the secretaries for each branch of the military to develop and maintain programs that would provide potential recruits with a mental health assessment before they join through enlistment or commission. The result of this initial assessment is to be used solely as a baseline for any mental health treatment that arises as result of their service. It is not intended to be used to disqualify recruits from joining, being promoting, or approved for military assignments.
If approved, the bill would also require the DOD to provide another mental health screening to each service member within 180 days of their separation from active duty. The DOD would be required to report the results to Congress. The DOD would also be required to give each service member an electronic copy of their entire treatment record at the time of separation.
Between 2000 and 2014, more than 300,000 service members, from every branch, were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. As many as twenty percent of Veterans from this same time period have been estimated to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Too many of our men and women in uniform still suffer from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and behavioral health conditions,” Sen. Portman said in a statement. “While we’ve made great strides in the way we treat these invisible wounds of war, the steady persistence of this problem demonstrates the need for more action.”
The MEPS Act is reportedly being endorsed by many Veterans organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Reserve Officers Association, National Military Family Association, Association of the U.S. Navy, the National Guard Association of the United States, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
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Military Connection: Bill to Improve Mental Health in the US Military: By Debbie Gregory