Each year, Congress authorizes mental health programs and services within the Department of Defense (DOD) to support service members, military retirees, and their families through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Congress recently passed the 2022 NDAA, and though military funding must be approved through appropriations bills, this legislation is used to establish defense priorities, make changes to military agencies, and provide guidance on how funding should be spent.
DOD administers many mental health programs that offer education, awareness, crisis prevention resources, clinical treatment, nonclinical support and counseling services, and research and development. DOD has made many efforts to address the wide range of mental health issues among military personnel and their families, and potential opportunities for improvement have been highlighted by the Government Accountability Office, DOD Inspector General, and other experts on military health issues.
Among the provisions in the 2022 NDAA:
DOD will be required to periodically screen for, and treat, eating disorders among service members.
DOD will establish a new process that triggers a command-directed mental health evaluation.
A new mental health appointment scheduling pilot program will ease the burden on families by connecting them directly with providers.
The Secretary of Defense will establish an independent committee to review DOD’s suicide prevention and response programs, and factors that contribute to military suicides, and report the findings to Congress.