HHS Partners with DoD to Increase Mental Health Services Available to Returning Military Service Members

Officer providing mental health services

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on June 4, 2008, an agreement between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) to increase mental health services available to returning war fighters, their family members, and to military retirees.

Many service members returning from armed conflicts are affected by mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, anxiety, flashbacks, and depression.

A DoD-appointed Mental Health Task Force conducted a year-long study of the military mental health system, providing recommendations to DoD. The DoD responded to the recommendations in its 2007 report to Congress with plans to create the DoD-PHS joint agreement. On April 15, 2008 the DoD and PHS signed a memorandum of agreement establishing the DoD-PHS Partners in Mental Health: Supporting our Service Members and Their Families initiative.

Currently mental health officers in the Commissioned Corps are detailed to military medical treatment facilities across the United States to treat service members who are returning from overseas deployment, as well as retirees and family members. Some officers are serving in North Carolina, Colorado, Hawaii, Georgia, and Alaska with the Army, Air Force, and Navy. Some of the services provided by Commissioned Corps officers include psychiatric counseling and family and group therapy.

The Commissioned Corps continues to actively recruit mental health service providers including psychiatrists, licensed clinical psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and psychiatric nurse practitioners.

The Commissioned Corps is tasked with providing mental health officers to serve at various military treatment facilities. Officers will be assigned to specific locations within the United States for 3 years. After the initial 3-year period, extensions to remain in an assignment will be negotiated between DoD and PHS.

The Commissioned Corps is a uniformed service of more than 6,500 public health professionals. The Commissioned Corps' primary duties are to protect, promote, and advance the Nation's health and safety by providing health care to people most in need and responding to public health emergencies.

The Commissioned Corps offers a career path for mental health professionals who want to improve the quality of people's lives and make a difference in public health. The DoD-PHS initiative provides an opportunity for mental health professionals to join the Corps and apply their expertise, knowledge, and skills on the cutting edge of holistic health care for returning troops and their families. Commissioned Corps officers receive competitive compensation, including health and dental care at no cost, tax-free housing, 30 days of paid vacation a year, and a host of other benefits.