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Friday, March 20, 2015

Thompson Introduces Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members Act

March 19, 2015
 CONTACT: Bailey Hall
Thompson Introduces Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members Act
Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill will Provide Military with Mental Health Assessments
Senator Toomey Newest Senate Sponsor

Washington, D.C.—Today, U.S. Representatives Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-05) and Tim Ryan (OH-13) introduced H.R. 1465, the Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members (MEPS) Act.  The bill, which has strong bipartisan support 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.

“According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 of our military veterans commit suicide every day — one every 65 minutes, to be precise,” said Thompson.  “The Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members Act will ensure that service members are mentally fit to serve our nation by establishing a mental health assessment at the time recruits are first joining the military. These brave men and women deserve our complete support and we must do everything that we can to ensure they receive necessary treatment during their service and transition back into civilian life,” Thompson added.

“It is heartbreaking to see the staggering number of veterans who are suffering from PTSD and TBI in our country,” said Congressman Ryan. “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 give us a better baseline 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 do everything in our power to guarantee they return home safely, both physically and mentally.”

“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 Rep. Thompson and Rep. Ryan 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.

This bipartisan, bicameral MEPS Act will institute a preliminary mental health assessment at the time recruits are first joining the military. An Army study confirmed the need to address mental health issues in a timely manner, finding that “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. The 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.

Thompson’s MEPS Act has a companion bill in the Senate, which was introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).  Pennsylvania Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) is also a co-sponsor of the Senate legislation.

"I remain deeply concerned about the high instances of suicide and PTSD among service members and veterans,” said Sen. Toomey.  “That’s why I am working with Rep. Thompson and Sen. Portman to improve the way the military identifies mental health issues for our service members and veterans.   The MEPS Act calls for baseline mental health assessments which start before recruits join the military and continue throughout a service member’s career.   It is important and helpful to have a well-informed background to try to make sure we’re properly caring for the men and women who have put on the uniform of this country.”

Support for the Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members (MEPS) Act: 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.

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