Reschenthaler proposes bill to create DOD task force on mental health for military

Bipartisan legislation recently offered by U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) would establish a mental health task force within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to tackle mental health issues across the United States military.

“This bipartisan legislation is critical to developing solutions that alleviate the mental health crisis plaguing our service members and their families,” Rep. Reschenthaler said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bill signed into law.”

The congressman on April 28 signed on as one of 19 original cosponsors of the Servicemembers Mental Health Improvement Act, H.R. 3011, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), who along with Rep. Reschenthaler currently co-chairs the Military Mental Health Task Force.

“Creating a Mental Health Task Force within the Defense Department will improve overall health within the department and ensure that Congress is well equipped with data to act on behalf of those who serve,” said Rep. Kilmer.

If enacted, H.R. 3011 would task the Defense Secretary with appointing not more than 15 individuals to the task force, specifically those with demonstrated expertise in national mental health policy, military personnel policy, research in the field of mental health, clinical care in mental health, and military chaplain or pastoral care, according to the text of the bill.

The appointees must include at least one member of each of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and the National Guard; at least one surgeon general of an Armed Force; and at least one dependent of a member of the Armed Forces who has experience working with military families, the text says, noting that one half of the appointees will be individuals who are not members of the Armed Forces, civilian employees of the DOD, or dependents of such members.

Within 12 months of their appointments, the group must submit a report that assesses and makes recommendations for improving the efficacy of mental health services provided to military members by DOD, says the text of H.R. 3011.

The measure is supported by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the Society of Federal Health Professionals, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., K9s For Warriors, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, among numerous other organizations.