WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced the Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers (MEPS) Act, a bill to improve the way the military identifies and assesses mental health issues. The MEPS Act would institute mental health assessments for incoming recruits and ensure servicemembers separating from active duty receive screenings as well. The entry screening would serve as a baseline for future mental health assessments throughout servicemembers' careers and help detect potential problems earlier, a key element of successful suicide prevention and mental health treatment efforts. Senator Heinrich introduced the MEPS Act with U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
"Part of fulfilling America's promise to our servicemembers and veterans is to provide them with the best health care and benefits our country has to offer. This bill is a great step in strengthening that commitment," Heinrich stated. "There are far too many men and women in uniform suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and other behavioral health conditions without the support they need. Establishing a baseline is critical for understanding and treating the mental impacts of being deployed. Our bill would ensure new recruits are provided with comprehensive, preliminary mental health screenings and complement current exit screenings for veterans who are transitioning to civilian life."
"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," Portman stated. "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. I'm pleased to renew my efforts to institute a more comprehensive and effective approach to mental health that covers servicemembers throughout the duration of their service as well as during their transition to civilian life."
"The American Psychological Association has a long-standing commitment to promoting health and well-being among military personnel, veterans, and their families. We support the Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers Act and applaud the efforts of Sen. Portman and Sen. Heinrich to strengthen DoD's prevention, assessment and treatment capacities for those wishing to serve our nation, those who are currently serving, and those who have served," said Heather O'Beirne Kelly, PhD, American Psychological Association Lead for Military and Veterans' Policy.
The legislation also requires the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to report on the effectiveness of mental health components of the Separation Health Assessment (SHA) servicemembers receive when leaving active duty.
The MEPS Act has been endorsed by a number of prominent veterans organizations and mental health advocacy groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Officers' Association of America, Reserve Officers' Association, National Military Family Association, Association of the U.S. Navy, the National Guard Association of the United States, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the American Psychological Association, and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.