This week, Congressman André Carson (IN-7) directed a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting the expedited implementation of portions of his Service Members Mental Health Screening Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.
Under the previous law, screenings from past deployments were not shared between units, inhibiting complete understanding of the mental health challenges facing deployed service members. Carson's bill requires more comprehensive analysis of pre- and post-deployment mental health assessments, giving military personnel additional tools to protect our service members. Without action from the Department of Defense, Carson's adjustments may take months to implement.
"While I recognize that these measures may not always detect impending tragedy, we also don't know what devastating events could have been and will be avoided with these measures in place," Carson said.
Carson pointed to the recent killing of sixteen Afghani civilians by a lone American soldier as an indication that these provisions should be implemented faster than prescribed by law.
"Many who have been diagnosed with and treated for mental health issues continue to serve and perform at the highest level; others can be a danger to themselves, their fellow service members, and innocent civilians," Carson's letter states. "Implementation of [my legislation] will go a long way towards identifying individuals who should be withheld from redeployment for additional care and observation."
Carson's letter went on to say, "A string of tragedies can be traced back to our first days in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many can be attributed to undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues. I know you will agree that while much progress has been made, more should be done to ensure these men and women do not face multiple deployments when they pose a risk to themselves and others."