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Mental and behavioral health

Welcoming Secretary of Defense Austin and offers suggestions on improving service delivery, prevention, and psychological research for servicemembers

APA offers recommendation considerations in a congratulatory letter to the secretary of defense, the Honorable Lloyd J. Austin III, regarding mental and behavioral needs of servicemembers.

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American Psychological Association. (2021, April 5). Welcoming Secretary of Defense Austin and offers suggestions on improving service delivery, prevention, and psychological research for servicemembers.

In a letter sent on March 30, APA extended congratulations and recommendations to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (PDF, 110KB). Psychologists have long been established as an important resource to the Department of Defense (DoD), servicemembers and their families by providing mental and behavioral care as well as conducting critical basic, applied, and human factors psychological research. 

In the letter, APA recommended improving TRICARE network adequacy and holding TRICARE contractors accountable for improving access to mental health care to servicemembers and their families. This letter follows up on many of APA’s past concerns with network adequacy and cuts to reimbursement rates for psychologists in regards to the TRICARE network. 

Some of APA’s other recommendations for the department include maintaining efforts to improve DoD’s culture and climate, continuing DoD’s focus on suicide prevention and lethal means safety, increasing continuity for separating servicemembers as they transition out of military service, and supporting basic and applied research. 

APA continues to encourage improvements in the culture and climate of the DoD. Long-term policy changes must reflect the recent efforts to create an environment that is safe for all servicemembers regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, or religion. The DoD should also continue efforts to prioritize suicide prevention and lethal means safety considering that servicemembers are at higher risk for dying by firearm suicide. 

In the letter, APA also encouraged the DoD to fund transition programs for servicemembers who are easing into civilian life. Suicide rates are elevated for veterans during this transition period and it is critical for these individuals to have access to the resources the Department of Veterans Affairs provides. Additionally, more basic and applied research is needed to ensure effective military practices at the individual and organizational level. Research-informed solutions to the equity issues with women and minority groups can lead to improvements in performance and workplace environment for these groups of servicemembers. 

For more information, contact Sophie Friedl.