United States Code
USC most recently checked for updates: May 29, 2023
Commanding officer and supervisor referrals of members for mental health evaluations
The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe and maintain regulations relating to commanding officer and supervisor referrals of members of the armed forces for mental health evaluations. The regulations shall incorporate the requirements set forth in subsections (b), (c), and (d) and such other matters as the Secretary considers appropriate.
The regulations required by subsection (a) shall, to the greatest extent possible—
seek to eliminate perceived stigma associated with seeking and receiving mental health services, promoting the use of mental health services on a basis comparable to the use of other medical and health services; and
clarify the appropriate action to be taken by commanders or supervisory personnel who, in good faith, believe that a subordinate may require a mental health evaluation.
The regulations required by subsection (a) shall provide that, when a commander or supervisor determines that it is necessary to refer a member of the armed forces for a mental health evaluation or is required to make such a referral pursuant to the process described in subsection (e)(1)(A)—
the health evaluation shall only be conducted in the most appropriate clinical setting, in accordance with the least restrictive alternative principle; and
only a psychiatrist, or, in cases in which a psychiatrist is not available, another mental health professional or a physician, may admit the member pursuant to the referral for a mental health evaluation to be conducted on an inpatient basis.
The regulations required by subsection (a) shall provide that no person may refer a member of the armed forces for a mental health evaluation as a reprisal for making or preparing a lawful communication of the type described in section 1034(c)(2) of this title, and applicable regulations. For purposes of this subsection, such communication shall also include a communication to any appropriate authority in the chain of command of the member.
The regulations required by subsection (a) shall, with respect to a member of the armed forces—
provide for a self-initiated process that enables the member to trigger a referral for a mental health evaluation by requesting such a referral from a commanding officer or supervisor who is in a grade above E-5;
ensure the function of the process described in subparagraph (A) by—
requiring the commanding officer or supervisor of the member to refer the member to a mental health provider for a mental health evaluation as soon as practicable following the request of the member (including by providing to the mental health provider the name and contact information of the member and providing to the member the date, time, and place of the scheduled mental health evaluation); and
the member may request a referral pursuant to subparagraph (A) on any basis (including on the basis of a concern relating to fitness for duty, occupational requirements, safety issues, significant changes in performance, or behavioral changes that may be attributable to possible changes in mental status); and
1So in original. Probably should be “ensuring”.
ensure that the process described in subparagraph (A)—
reduces stigma in accordance with subsection (b), including by treating referrals for mental health evaluations made pursuant to such process in a manner similar to referrals for other medical services, to the maximum extent practicable; and
protects the confidentiality of the member to the maximum extent practicable, in accordance with requirements for the confidentiality of health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–191) and applicable privacy laws.
In making a referral for an evaluation of a member of the armed forces triggered by a request made pursuant to the process described in paragraph (1)(A), if the member has made such a request on the basis of a concern that the member is a potential or imminent danger to self or others, the commanding officer or supervisor of the member shall observe the following principles:
With respect to safety, if the commander or supervisor determines the member is exhibiting dangerous behavior, the first priority of the commander or supervisor shall be to ensure that precautions are taken to protect the safety of the member, and others, prior to the arrival of the member at the location of the evaluation.
With respect to communication, prior to such arrival, the commander or supervisor shall communicate to the provider to which the member is being referred (in a manner and to an extent consistent with paragraph (1)(C)(ii)), information on the circumstances and observations that led to—
the member requesting the referral; and
the commander or supervisor making such referral based on the request.
On an annual basis, each Secretary concerned shall provide to the members of the Armed Forces under the jurisdiction of such Secretary a training on how to recognize personnel who may require mental health evaluations on the basis of the individual being an imminent danger to self or others, as demonstrated by the behavior or apparent mental state of the individual.
In this section:
The term “mental health professional” means a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, a person with a doctorate in clinical social work, or a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist.
The term “mental health evaluation” means a psychiatric examination or evaluation, a psychological examination or evaluation, an examination for psychiatric or psychological fitness for duty, or any other means of assessing the state of mental health of a member of the armed forces.
The term “least restrictive alternative principle” means a principle under which a member of the armed forces committed for hospitalization and treatment shall be placed in the most appropriate and therapeutic available setting—
that is no more restrictive than is conducive to the most effective form of treatment; and
in which treatment is available and the risks of physical injury or property damage posed by such placement are warranted by the proposed plan of treatment.
(Added Pub. L. 112–81, div. A, title VII, § 711(a)(1),
Dec. 31, 2011, 125 Stat. 1475, § 1090a; renumbered § 1090b and amended Pub. L. 117–81, div. A, title VII, §§ 701(c)(1)(A), 704, Dec. 27, 2021, 135 Stat. 1778, 1780.)
cite as: 10 USC 1090b