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Deployment Guidelines

Subject: Deployment news

DoD Expands Mental Health Screening Guidance for Deploying Troops

December 14, 2006 No. 06-55
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FALLS CHURCH, Va.—The Department of Defense has issued improved policy guidance for military personnel with deployment-limiting psychiatric conditions, and for those who are prescribed psychiatric medications. The new policy satisfies many requirements established in the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act signed into law on September 29, 2006. Section 738 of the law requires the Department to specify conditions and treatments that preclude a Service member from deploying to a combat or contingency operation.

“This new guidance will improve mental health screening by assisting our physicians to make the best possible decisions regarding the deployment of service members who experience mental conditions,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr., assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs. “Our finest clinical experts have worked on these guidelines for some time. We recognize them as a major step forward in helping our Service members and physicians. They also address important concerns of military family members and of Members of Congress.”

Early identification and treatment of mental health problems are keys to continuation of active service and return to duty. Service personnel with psychiatric conditions in remission and without duty performance impairment are generally fit to deploy. However, these individuals must demonstrate a pattern of stability without significant symptoms for at least three months prior to deployment. Some psychiatric disorders require extensive and long-term care and treatment. These conditions will cause service members to be unfit for duty and therefore routinely processed out the military. Additionally, those deployed service members with conditions determined to be at significant risk for performing poorly or decompensating in an operational environment who do not respond to treatment within two weeks will be returned to home station. While not altering or replacing existing accession, retention, and general fitness for duty standards, the new guidance standardizes deployment-related mental health policy across the Service branches.

The guidelines stipulate that few medications are inherently disqualifying for deployment. However, lithium and anticonvulsants to control manic-depressive bipolar illness are considered disqualifying medications, as are antipsychotic drugs for psychotic, bipolar and chronic insomnia symptoms. Psychotic and bipolar spectrum disorders are also disqualifying.

“These are excellent guidelines that support our primary responsibility to ensure the health and wellness of our uniformed personnel,” Winkenwerder said.

To view the entire policy guidance, use the link below