Ms. BERKLEY. Madam Chair, I rise today in support of the Thompson/Berkley amendment.
This amendment would expand the DoD state licensure exception to allow health care professionals to practice across state borders--as long as they are qualified and practicing within regulations of their authorized federal duties. It would change the definition of these exempted health care professionals to include qualified civilians and contractors. However, nothing in this amendment is intended to change state-based scope of practice laws or regulations nor is it intended to be used as the basis for any future scope of practice changes through DoD regulations. This amendment also removes cumbersome location requirements, promoting increased use of tele-medicine, tele-healthcare services, and tele-behavioral health programs.
One of my long-standing goals in Congress has been to expand the availability of mental health services for our brave men and women in uniform. Increasing servicemembers' treatment options by eliminating outdated restrictions on well-qualified health care professionals is an important step toward meeting that goal. This amendment addresses the changing medical needs of America's men and women in uniform and reduces barriers to ensure full access to quality health care--regardless of their location. This amendment is based on H.R. 1832, the Portability (STEP) Act, which has the support of the Air Force Association (AFA), American Servicemembers' Telemedicine & E-Health Legion, the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), the Enlisted Association of the National Guard (EANGUS), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Mental Health America, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Reserve Enlisted Association (REA), and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
This amendment addresses DoD's limited ability to allow its health care professionals to provide care when the patient is in a different state while adhering to DoD's current system of core and supplemental privileges for each respective specialty, ensuring high quality care and patient safety. It also unties the hands of the DoD when it comes to civilians or contractors who have stepped up to fill shortages in desperately needed positions--especially mental health. Many in the military will no longer have to travel long distances to get help, relieving financial burdens and stress. We must honor the dedication and sacrifice of our troops by making sure DoD has the resources and qualified treatment providers needed to care for our heroes in Nevada and across the nation. That includes even more assistance for our troops who are coping not only with physical injuries, but with the challenges of PTSD and other mental health issues we are still working to better understand. This amendment recommits us as a nation to honoring the service of America's military, modernizing DoD for the 21st Century and increasing the quality and convenience of support and services for our returning servicemembers.
I want to thank Representative THOMPSON for his dedication to this very important issue and I urge my colleagues to support our amendment.