Democratic presidential hopeful and Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton wants to mandate annual mental health check-ups for all servicemembers and high-schoolers in an effort to better “make sure everyone gets the support they need.”
Moulton, who currently represents Massachusetts’ 6th District in Congress, said in a statement that he believes veterans and the military can serve as an example for the rest of the country in proactive use of mental health care, but only if systems are improved to provide better resources.
“Veterans across the country are opening up about our post-traumatic stress and mental health challenges because it is vital that we tell our stories, end the stigma around these issues, and make sure everyone gets the support they need,” he said. “And it should be a model for everyone else.”
The president will sign a new executive order on Tuesday creating a task force with a deadline of one year for aggressive new solutions to the problem.
Each day, about 20 veterans nationwide and one active-duty service member die by suicide. Veterans Affairs and Defense Department officials have made the issue a major focus in recent years, but seen limited success in reducing those numbers.
Moulton’s presidential platform — which has focused on a number of national security and military policies — includes making mental health check-ups “as routine as a physical for active-duty military and veterans.”
That would include an annual mandated visit with mental health specialists for all serving troops and a mandatory counseling session for every service member returning from a combat deployment within two weeks of arriving home.
To extend that idea to the rest of the country, Moulton is calling for making “mental health training” part of high school physical education curriculum nationwide, and establishing 511 as the new National Mental Health Crisis Hotline.
He also wants to fund annual mental health check-ups for those young people, but did not provide any cost-estimates on what such a program may cost.
“Mental health care should be a regular part of American life, and veterans can lead the way in ending the stigma around these issues for good,” he said.
A new proposal would require VA to provide lawmakers with information on those veterans' benefits and medical background within days of the deaths.
Moulton served in the Marine Corps for seven years, including a tour in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003. He received a Bronze Star with V device during his deployment.
Moutlon is one of three Democratic presidential candidates with recent military service: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg served in Afghanistan with the Navy Reserve and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, served in Iraq with the Army National Guard.
Veterans or service members experiencing a mental health emergency can contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. They can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.