A national study reported that nearly 1 in 4 active-duty servicemembers showed signs of a mental health condition
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff’s bipartisan bill to strengthen oversight of mental health treatment in the armed forces has passed the Senate.
Sens. Ossoff and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Servicemember Mental Health Support Act as a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen oversight of Department of Defense (DoD) policies for referring active-duty personnel to outside mental health care specialists.
“Military servicemembers have described to me the difficulty they’ve had getting a referral out to mental health services at clinics and counseling centers in the community. I want to make sure that servicemembers have access timely when they need mental health support,” Sen. Ossoff said. “I’ve passed with bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats this Servicemember Mental Health Support Act, which is going to strengthen oversight at the Department of Defense of that referral process when a servicemember needs to access mental health support services, we want to make sure that referral is timely, efficient, and confidential.”
Active duty servicemembers may seek mental health treatment at a military facility without receiving a referral, but they are not permitted to access private care, such as telehealth sessions, without first obtaining a referral from a doctor on post.
However, senior enlisted personnel across the armed forces have reported that many active-duty members are struggling to receive care in a timely manner.
The bipartisan bill would require the DoD to submit a report to Congress that contains recommendations for improving servicemembers’ access to mental health care specialists, such as group counselors or psychiatrists, with hopes of increasing enrollment in these services and ensuring servicemembers receive the timely support they need and deserve.
The bipartisan Servicemember Mental Health Support Act will also require the DoD to submit this report to Congress within 180 days of this legislation passing.
According to a 2022 DoD study, suicides among active duty servicemembers increased by more than 40% between 2015 and 2020. A similar study reported that nearly 1 in 4 members showed signs of a mental health condition.
Sen. Ossoff continues pushing to improve military families’ access to vital mental health care services.
Earlier this year, Sens. Ossoff and Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced a bipartisan bill to cut red tape that would expand access to mental health services for servicemembers in Georgia.
Sen. Ossoff also partnered with Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) to introduce the bipartisan Military Families Mental Health Services Act to allow the Secretary of Defense to waive out-of-pocket expenses for military families seeking mental health treatment.
Click here to read the bipartisan Servicemember Mental Health Support Act amendment to the NDAA.