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U.S. Reps. Glenn Thompson, Tim Ryan Introduce “Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members (MEPS) Act”
Bellefonte, PA – U.S. Representatives Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) today introduced the bipartisan Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members (MEPS) Act (H.R. 4305). The bill, which has 13 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of a large number of military and mental health advocacy groups, will help the military identify behavioral health issues and improve suicide prevention by instituting a mental health assessment for all incoming military recruits.
"Despite increased awareness and expanded efforts to address behavioral health issues in the military, our service branches still face challenges when it comes to early detection and prevention. Issues such as Traumatic Brain Injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress, and suicide remain all too common. While the military performs comprehensive physical and medical evaluations, no similar examination for mental health exists,” stated Rep. Thompson. “The Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members Act will institute a preliminary mental health assessment at the time recruits are first joining the military. This small but consequential improvement to recruitment evaluations will help address a recognized knowledge gap within the military and ensure our soldiers are both physically and mentally fit to serve.”
“I am heartbroken by the staggering number of our veterans who are suffering from PTSD and TBI,” Rep. Ryan stated. “Our military makes sure every serviceman and woman is physically fit for duty and this legislation will ensure that they are also mentally fit. It will also ensure that we have a better baseline against which to measure any potential mental harm they may have incurred during their duty. These men and women put their lives on the line every day in the service of our nation, it is our duty to offer everything in our power to guarantee they return home safely, both physically and mentally.”
According to a recent Army study nearly one in five Army soldiers enter the service with a psychiatric disorder, and nearly half of all soldiers who tried suicide first attempted it before enlisting.
Additionally, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a large percentage of suicides in the military were individuals who had never been deployed in a combat role.
Support for the Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members (MEPS) Act:
•"NGAUS strongly supports the MEPS Act as long overdue in addressing the need to establish a workable baseline to identify the signature mental health injuries of the current wars. Not having a baseline is a neglectful disservice to our military members and veterans who risk their lives for our nation,” stated Peter J. Duffy, Colonel US Army (Ret), Director of Legislation, National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).
•"The American Psychological Association is pleased to support Rep. Glenn Thompson's efforts to provide mental health assessment and appropriate follow-up for all persons enlisting in or receiving commissions into the U.S. Armed Forces, through the Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers Act of 2014," stated Heather Kelly, PhD, American Psychological Association.
•“Hundreds of veterans over the last 13 years have been discharged with personality disorders rather than be properly diagnosed for post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic injury. The MEPS Act would help such veterans by initial screening new recruits and setting a mental baseline for those who are eventually deployed,” stated Marshall Hanson, CAPT, USNR (ret.), Legislative Director, Reserve Officers Association (ROA).
•“AUSN supports The Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers (MEPS) Act brings mental health to parity with physical health and will ensure that our incoming troops are both physically and mentally fit to serve,” stated Anthony A. Wallis, Legislative Director, Association of the U.S. Navy (AUSN).
•“The National Military Family Association supports the Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members (MEPS) Act of 2014. We are gravely concerned about suicide trends among service members and veterans and the impact they have on families. We believe it is important to establish a baseline mental health assessment so that any subsequent evaluations can more accurately determine whether an issue is service connected. We thank Representatives Glenn Thompson and Tim Ryan for making the issue of military behavioral health and suicide prevention a priority,” stated the National Military Family Association
•"The VFW believes that providing a mental health exam as part of the initial health assessment for military recruits makes perfect sense. Having a baseline assessment can go a long way to protect service members and ensure mental health resources are in place,” stated Raymond Kelley, Legislative Director, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Thompson included language similar to H.R. 4305 in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, but it was not included in the final Conference Committee agreement.