Senators Introduce Mental Health Bill

Washington Report

(May 13, 2014) Two U.S. senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee have introduced legislation aimed at strengthening mental health care for members of the military.

Wednesday, Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduced the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2014. The measure is named after an Indiana National Guardsmen who committed suicide when he was home on leave from Afghanistan.

The bill requires mental health assessments for servicemembers in all three components.  It establishes a working group to look at how things are currently done and to recommend ways to improve services for the National Guard. The working group would be made up of officials from the Defense Department and the Health and Human Services Department.  And, the legislation aims to strengthen privacy protections for service members who seek help.

In announcing the legislation, Donnelly acknowledged that there's no "cure-all to prevent suicide." But, he said, "we need to recognize that mental fitness, like physical fitness, is a critical component of military readiness."

Wicker adds, "these men and women sacrifice so much for our country and deserve our full support."

This year's legislation is an updated version of a similar bill Donnelly introduced last year. The new bill, he says, has more targeted solutions to quickly help servicemembers.

NGAUS supports the legislation, and expects to send out a Legislative Alert on the bill later this week.