Amendment to 2005 Defense Bill mandates full study of Mental Health Services available to U.S. Soldiers and their Families
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May 21, 2004 - On May 20, 2004, the House of Representatives voted in support of an amendment drafted by U.S. Reps. Brian Baird (D-WA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), requiring the Secretary of Defense to launch a comprehensive review of the mental health and counseling services available to U.S. soldiers and their families. The Baird-Kennedy amendment was included in the fiscal year 2005 Defense Authorization Act.
The amendment will force the Department of Defense (DOD) to address tough issues, such as how the decision to seek mental health treatment can impact a service member's career, and the extent to which the military's lack of firm confidentiality policies hamper treatment of soldiers and combat veterans. The amendment will also require DOD to examine disparities between the mental health services available to active duty military, and those available to members of the Reserve and National Guard.
In a press statement, Rep. Baird said, "We owe this to our soldiers and their families. In past conflicts, we have failed to provide adequate mental health care for our soldiers, and many have suffered." Baird worked extensively with veterans of the Vietnam War as a clinical psychologist prior to being elected to Congress.
The amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to submit the findings of the study to Congress, including a section detailing any shortcomings identified, and specific recommendations for addressing them, not more than 90 days after the President signs the bill into law.
The House passed the Defense Authorization Act on Thursday, May 20, 2004, by a vote of 391 to 34. The Senate is unlikely to finish debate on their version of the defense bill before the chamber adjourns for the weeklong Memorial Day recess period.