Are the Department of Defense (DoD) and the armed forces devoting enough
resources to meet the mental health needs of the troops before, during, and
after deployment to combat
The amendment's cosponsors: Reps. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) (top) and
Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.).
An amendment to the Fiscal 2005 DoD budget bill (HR 4200) by Reps. Patrick
Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Brian Baird (D-Wash.) calls on the secretary of defense
to study that question and present the findings to Congress within 90 days of
the bill's enactment.
HR 4200 was approved with the amendment by the House of Representatives
last month and awaits Senate action.
"The amendment will force the DoD to address tough issues such as how
the decision to seek mental health care can impact a serviceman's career and
the extent to which the military's lack of firm confidentiality policies
hinders treatment of soldiers and combat veterans," a press release from
The amendment will also require the DoD to examine disparities between the
mental health services available to active-duty military and members of the
Reserve and National Guard.
Kennedy sent Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a letter last month signed
by 30 of his House colleagues stating that deficiencies in mental health
services available to deployed troops were mentioned during testimony before
the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security in March and the
House Armed Services Total Force Subcommittee in January.
The representatives signing the letter asked DoD to assess whether
"We are concerned about the accessibility and continuity of
postdeployment mental health services. A seamless transition of care from the
Department of Defense to the Department of Veterans Affairs is crucial to
avoiding any gap in postdeployment mental health coverage," the
congressional letter stated.
Although a transitional health care benefit program for reservists was
extended from 120 days to 180 days, the program ends in December.
"We are concerned that military personnel who develop post-traumatic
stress symptoms months after deployment won't have benefits," the letter
The representatives asked the DoD to assess whether military families are
being informed in a timely and accurate manner of all their options for
obtaining and maintaining mental health services.
The amendment can be accessed online at<http://thomas.loc.gov>
by searching on the bill number, HR 4200, and clicking on "National
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 (Placed on Calendar in Senate)