On behalf of those who are suffering and will continue to suffer from the adverse consequences of the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and command policies addressed within the report, we recommend these changes be implemented immediately.
End commander discretion over service-members’ access to medical care and service members’ medically-verified work restrictions, including their deployability status.
- DoD, as well as all branches of the US military, must implement specific policy and enforcement mechanisms barring commander discretion over the professional advice of medical and mental health practitioners working in the military, and take measures to ensure that soldiers are not compelled to redeploy against previous medical orders.
Ensure medical and mental health care providers serving in the US military observe the same medical and mental health codes of ethics free from institutional pressure stemming from their embeddedness within the military’s chain of command.
- DoD should allocate resources for regular, periodic review of adherence to these standards in all military treatment facilities and screening procedures, to be implemented by independent oversight bodies working in partnership with military leaders.
- Implement periodic independent monitoring of all military and VA healthcare facilities to review their compliance with medical and mental health treatment ethics as published by the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association. Ensure results of each review are published publically and reported to Congress to identify gaps in health care funding and to promote transparency.
- Ensure providers in the military chain of command are never be placed under institutional duress or instruction to short-cut psychological evaluations or prescribe medication in any fashion otherwise than is standard in civilian medical practice.
Establish reporting and enforcement mechanisms that provide soldiers redress when their rights to medical care are violated.
- Install reporting procedures and enforcement mechanisms against commanders and others who contribute to the stigmatization of soldiers experiencing medical and mental health concerns, and the violation of soldiers’ profiles. These accountability mechanisms should be monitored by an independent authority, working in partnership with relevant military leadership.
Ensure greater public transparency of issues related to the military’s treatment of its servicemembers.
- We submitted a series of requests for information to the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office and Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, all of which resulted in referrals, within minutes, and without explanation, to the FOIA office. Our questions covered post-specific statistics such as deployments, sexual assaults and case outcomes, mental health visits and diagnoses, psychotropic prescriptions, and waiting lists for mental health treatment programs. Further consultation with those who had pursued FOIA requests at Fort Hood confirmed that they were are almost always denied.
- As this lack of clear and accurate information about the experiences and treatment of servicemembers undermines efforts to ensure that they are being supported and receiving quality care, as well as basic measures of democratic accountability, we encourage further reforms to ensure a basic level of public transparency at US military installations, including Fort Hood.
Establish training for military leadership on soldier-care and respect for physical profiles.
- Establish an oversight body responsible for hiring trainers and overseeing the training of Army commanders and NCO’s (levels E-7 and above) on issues and policies related to soldier care and physical profiles.
Fund longitudinal studies to investigate the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury, to inform the development of treatment protocols for service-members and veterans.
Provide proper long term care for service-connected injuries and illnesses, regardless of discharge status.
Initiate a review into the Army’s use of discharge protocols since the advent of the drawdown beginning in 2012; and their impact on soldiers’ access to care for service-connected injuries and illnesses.
Amend military insurance policies to ensure coverage and support for ex-spouses and dependents for a transitional period after the divorce of a service-member.
Ensure service-members’ and veterans’ access to quality medical and mental health care, and anticipate the costs of treating service-connected injuries and illnesses when authorizing military and war budgets.
- Implement policy for all branches of the US military ensuring they fully treat mental health and traumatic injuries suffered by US service-members. Funding for these services should be allocated as an integral component of any future war budget. This should include funding for long-term health care under both the DoD and Veterans Affairs. Without adequate health care, the high costs of war and everyday military service are being paid by injured soldiers, their families, and communities.
Read the full “Recommendations” section, including footnotes.