Increases, Improves Mental Healthcare in the U.S. Navy
Today, Congresswoman Jen Kiggans (VA-02) introduced the Sailor Standard of Care Act to improve mental healthcare for the men and women serving in the United States Navy. Joining her in this critical effort are Congressmen Bobby Scott (VA-03), Rob Wittman (VA-01), and Jimmy Panetta (CA-19).
This important, bipartisan legislation would increase mental health resources and require mental health screenings for sailors assigned to limited duty, address challenges servicemembers and their families face accessing mental healthcare through TRICARE, implement a quality-of-life tracker, and expedite the Navy’s medical separation process that negatively impacts limited duty sailors.
“As a former Navy helicopter pilot and healthcare provider, it infuriates me that the number of sailors who die by suicide continues to rise,” said Congresswoman Kiggans. “Our community here in Hampton Roads has been particularly devastated by these tragedies. It’s clear for anyone to see – we have to better serve those serving our great country. I’m proud to lead the bipartisan effort to provide our service members with the mental healthcare they need and reverse this troubling rise in suicides. I will not rest until the Navy is equipped to provide the resources and quality of life each and every sailor deserves.”
“There has been a disturbing rise in the number of sailors dying by suicide in recent years; and the Navy must ensure that our sailors are able to access the mental health services that they deserve,” said Congressman Scott. “The Sailor Standard of Care Act addresses these concerns by directing the Navy to expedite care, increase mental health screenings, and establish a framework to improve the mental health of sailors. I thank Representatives Kiggans, Wittman and Panetta for their partnership on this important bipartisan legislation.”
“Ensuring our sailors have access to the mental health resources they need is of the utmost importance,” said Rep. Wittman. “Our men and women in uniform face incredible experiences and challenges during their time of service, and we have a duty to ensure they are receiving the proper treatment and care they need to stay safe and healthy. I’m proud to join Rep. Kiggans on this important bill to increase mental health research and care efforts within the Department of the Navy and provide our sailors with the quality of life they deserve.”
“Due to the alarming rates of suicide and hospitalization amongst sailors, there appears to be a growing mental health dilemma in the United States Navy,” said Rep. Panetta. “I’m proud to support the bipartisan Sailor Standard of Care Act to improve the mental health care available to our naval servicemembers with increased access to services and a better comprehension of the problems that we are facing within the ranks. This legislation would ensure that the U.S. Navy is doing its part to care for the men and women who put their own wellbeing on the line to serve our nation.”
Specifically, the Sailor Standard of Care Act would:
- Require mandatory mental health provider billets for units with more than 15 limited duty sailors assigned (provider types include medical officers, chaplains, and civilian mental health professionals).
- Require all sailors assigned to limited duty to receive an initial mental health screening by a certified mental healthcare provider.
- Subsequent screenings will be conducted every 60 days while sailors are assigned to limited duty.
- Examine reimbursement rates for mental healthcare providers under TRICARE, the number of current and projected mental healthcare providers under TRICARE, and assess what, if any, additional authorities and resources are needed to effectively provide timely access to mental healthcare.
- Require the Navy to construct and manage a dashboard to track quality of life programs and their utilization rate.
- The quality-of-life issues tracked by this dashboard include childcare, healthcare, education, housing, and spouse employment.
- Requires the Navy to study recent cases, like those at the USS George Washington and MARMC, in which multiple suicides occurred within 30 days of each other at the same unit/command and establish a standard operating procedure for responding to multiple suicides.
- Requires the Navy to provide a briefing to Congress on the average number of days it takes to separate with limited duty sailors after it is determined the sailors are to be medically separated.
You can read the full bill text here and a one pager of the bill here. Additional original cosponsors of the bill include: Congresswoman Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14), Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01).