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Military Connection: Bill to Improve Mental Health in the US Military

Mental Health

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.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Bill to Improve Mental Health in the US Military: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Military Suicide Spike: By Debbie Gregory

Military funeralSuicide now tops the list of the leading causes of death among military service members.

American civilians have seen the public service announcements on military suicides. Veterans remember the briefings and the countless number of AFN commercials on the subject. And today’s service members are constantly trained on recognizing the signs of suicide among their comrades, and the resources that are available to them if they or someone they know should need help. But for all the awareness, for all of the effort, our service members are losing the war against suicide.

An October, 2014 article in the Pentagon’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR) provides eye-opening data on just how unsuccessful the results of the battle against military suicide are.

Before the current period of war, suicide was already the third-highest cause of death in the U.S. military. From 1998-2003, suicide was listed behind accidents and illnesses.

Not surprisingly, from 2004-2011, war was the leading cause of death. This span covers the height of fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Suicide remained the third leading cause of death through this time period, behind illness.

But in recent years, the number of military deaths by suicide has exceeded those by war, accidents and illnesses, to become the leading cause of service member deaths. Approximately three out of every ten service member deaths are due to suicide.

The report cites data from Department of Defense Suicide Event Reports (DODSER). These reports revealed that between 2010 and 2012, there were 2,553 suicide attempts and 812 suicides within the military. The DODSER data also reflects that there were 53.6 suicide attempts  and 17.1 suicides per every 100,000 service members.

The vast majority of suicide activity occurred away from combat zones. According to the report, 85% of the suicide attempts and 83% of the  suicide deaths took place on U.S. soil.

Every suicide is a preventable death, especially when the bulk of those deaths are happening on our installations and in our communities. Please remain vigilant for the sake of the men and women in uniform, especially those of you in and near the military community.

If you observe someone who is in trouble, please refer them to the Crisis Hotline at www.veteranscrisisline.net or 1(800) 273-8255 (then 1). Those in need can even text to 838255 or utilize the Confidential Veterans Chat option.

The Crisis Line is for current military, Veterans and their families, but anyone can call for help for themselves or others contemplating suicide. All calls, texts, and chats are confidential.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Military Suicide Spike: By Debbie Gregory