A Defense Department council is asking Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for answers about whether military children whose parents encouraged them to seek behavioral health care are later being barred from military service.

The DoD Military Family Readiness Council voted Wednesday to forward a recommendation to Mattis requesting information from the military services about the use of electronic medical records of new entrants to the military who were previously military dependents, an issue first reported on by Military Times. The group asked for a report to the council within six months.

The group also voted to include the issue as their No. 1 topic for focus in the coming year. The issue is broadened beyond mental health information in medical records.

Some newly minted service members have been forced to leave basic training after officials who had access to their prior dependent electronic medical records saw notations related to mental health issues that were treated years before. In the case of Army Maj. Rudy De La Rosa’s daughters, there were notations in the records that neither the parents nor the daughters knew about until older daughter Juliet was discharged from Air Force basic training.

The family disputed the accuracy of those notations, and despite numerous current examinations by mental health providers resulting in clean bills of health, the daughters have been denied waivers to enter the military.

Other parents have notified Military Times about similar problems, including one Navy son who was booted from Navy basic training because of treatment he received as a toddler, related to his father’s deployments.

Records relating to civilian recruits’ previous medical history as children are confidential, and can’t be automatically accessed by military officials.

The recommendation was one of six being forwarded to Mattis, out of 14 initially proposed. It was brought forth by council members Mary Keller, executive director of the Military Child Education Coalition, and Karen Ruedisueli, deputy government relations director for the National Military Family Association.

Among the 12 other council members present were Stephanie Barna, acting assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs; Army Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, assistant chief of staff of the Army for installation management; Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey; Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright; Jennifer Luscher, a Navy Reserve spouse; and Laura Conley, an Army National Guard spouse.

The council voted by written ballot, and those observing were provided no information on how members voted.

The council recommends that Mattis request information from the services on:

  • How many military dependents’ medical records have been accessed when they entered military service.
  • How many former military children have been denied enlistment or involuntarily separated because of information in their electronic medical records.
  • Under what circumstances the services can gain access to dependents’ electronic medical records.
  • What guidelines the services use when evaluating information in the records, how the information is used in determining whether the former dependent is fit for duty, and what other information is used in conjunction with those medical records.
  • Who evaluates information in these prior dependent electronic medical records, what their qualifications and guidance are, and what oversight is provided to ensure the information is interpreted and used appropriately.
  • What the appeals process is for those recommended for involuntary separation based on information in those dependent records.
  • What the policy is for examining medical records of entrants who are not former military dependents.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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