Thursday, August 28, 2014

President Orders Executive Actions to Advance Military, Veterans Mental Health Care

President Obama, speaking yesterday at the American Legion's national meeting, issued 19 executive actions to improve mental health care for active-duty military service members, their families, and veterans. APA has been a strong advocate for many items in the President's plan. The executive actions were aimed at improving access and quality of care in both the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health systems and in smoothing the transition of mental health care as military members move from the DoD to VA systems.

Among other things, the actions will allow changes in the VA’s medication formulary to match that of the DoD, ensuring continuity of psychotropic medications without the present need for cumbersome medication waivers. The DoD will also now automatically enroll service members receiving mental health care in an existing transition program, which has up to now required clinician- or self-referral. The actions will bring the DoD’s TRICARE military health system more closely in line with the civilian mental health parity legislation. Another provision will push mental health care options down to the level of operational units. More research on posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and suicidality are also part of the initiative.

Commenting on executive orders, APA President Paul Summergrad, M.D., said, “The American Psychiatric Association applauds President Obama’s decision to issue a series of executive orders that will improve access to and quality of mental health services for our nation’s veterans and active-duty service members and focus research efforts on advancing our understanding of PTSD, suicide risk, and traumatic brain injury. The President has addressed many of the issues for which APA has long advocated, and our service members, veterans, their families will be the beneficiaries. We look forward to working with the DoD and VA as the plans are implemented.”

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