Rep. Smucker Legislation Adopted by Armed Services Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Two pieces of bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Smucker (PA-11) were adopted by the House Armed Services Committee during a markup of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2500).
Congressman Smucker’s Warrior Wellness Act (H.R. 1801) and Defense Small Business Advancement Act (H.R. 2974), were offered as amendments to the NDAA. The NDAA now proceeds to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
“I appreciate the House Armed Services Committee adopting these two bills into the National Defense Authorization Act. These two bipartisan efforts advance critical priorities, like ensuring our active-duty service men and women have access to high-quality mental healthcare and supporting our nation’s small businesses,” said Rep. Smucker.
“While the Department of Defense (DoD) has made important efforts to increase its mental health workforce, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that it still faces a shortage of mental health providers and particularly psychiatrists,” Rep. Smucker said. “It is critical that our service members are not waiting for mental health providers and have full access to mental health services while serving our nation.”
“I believe honoring our service members means keeping our promises when they return home – and that includes providing the care they need to live happy, healthy lives. The Warrior Wellness Act will help our nation keep that promise. Additionally, our Defense Small Business Advancement Act will help Pennsylvania’s small businesses by providing a reliable pathway to navigate government red tape through collaborative partnerships with their peers.”
The Warrior Wellness Act would help improve mental health by requiring the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress detailing the shortage of mental health providers no later than 180 days after enactment. Additionally, the Department must establish a monitoring system carried out by each branch of the armed services to conduct periodic reviews of the medication prescribing practices of its own providers. The Department of Defense’s Military Health System (MHS) makes mental health care available to active-duty service men and women through its TRICARE system. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from April 2016, the Department of Defense has increased the number of mental health providers available to service men and women.
The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have developed clinical practice guidelines for PTSD to ensure active-duty service men and women have access to reliable and effective treatment. However, a January 2016 GAO report found that the Department of Defense does not regularly monitor the prescribing practices for PTSD. Instead, the Department relies on the individual military branches to monitor prescribing practices. The report also found that the largest branch – the United States Army – does not regularly monitor its prescribing practices.
Department data indicate a shortage still exists among providers such as psychiatrists. The amendment would also require the Secretary submit a report on the Department’s efforts to review and monitor prescribing practices of its providers based on its guideline recommendations to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The bipartisan Defense Small Business Advancement Act (H.R. 2974) will help connect small businesses in Pennsylvania and across the country with DoD contracting opportunities that otherwise may have been out of their reach. This legislation reauthorizes and brings greater accountability to the DoD Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP), which expired last year. The MPP increases participation of small, disadvantaged businesses performing as suppliers to DoD, civilian agencies, and private industry by encouraging mentorships from established DoD contractors.
The DoD’s Mentor-Protégé program has a record of success over its nearly 30-year history. For every year a small business participated in the program, the average business added 13.4 new, full-time employees to its payroll and earned $7.3 million in additional revenue. Integrating small businesses into the supply chain that serves as the bedrock of our national security is critical to preserving peace both at home and abroad.
For more information on the Warrior Wellness Act, click here.
For more information on the Defense Small Business Advancement Act, click here.