The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is releasing a report Thursday morning calling on the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate barriers to mental health care and make better use of local care in the treatment of service members, veterans and their families.
The report, entitled “Parity for Patriots: The Mental Health Needs of Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families,” is being released in conjunction with NAMI’s national convention in Seattle.
The report recommends that the VA’s Veterans Health Administration, which faces huge demand for mental health assessment and treatment including from veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, increase its service capacity by including community mental health agencies and private practitioners as providers.
The VA has come under sharp criticism following the release of an inspector general’s report in April that found the department has greatly overstated how quickly it provides mental health care for veterans.
The report also calls on the Department of Defense to hold military leaders throughout the chain of command accountable for suicides. “Suicides are preventable just as are the heat and cold injuries of service members for which leaders are routinely relieved of command,” the report says.
At a suicide prevention conference in Washington last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said it is the responsibility of leaders from non-commissioned officers on up to ensure that troops showing signs of stress be “aggressively” encouraged to seek help.