Troops would be required to get a mental health checkup once every six months when deployed to contingency operations under a draft version of the 2014 defense bill approved by the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel.
Under the provision, service members would rate an in-person mental health screening every 180 days that they are operationally deployed.
These screenings would be in addition to ones already in place pre- and post-deployment, required 120 days before deployment and three times after deployment: between 90 to 180 days, 181 days and 18 months, and 18 and 30 months.
Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., originally sponsored HR 1464, the Military Mental Health Empowerment Act, that proposed the new in-theater screenings to improve behavioral health services on the front lines.
“We are quick to diagnose and treat service members who are injured in combat, with medics rushing to those who are struck by enemy IEDs or gunfire,” Carson said. “But when it comes to the mental health challenges placed on our service members, we abandon them through months of deployment to deal with post traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts.”
The House Armed Services Committee will consider the legislation on June 5.
Staff writer Rick Maze contributed to this report.