Transitional Assistance Management Programby Representative Glenn Thompson
Posted on 2014-01-08
THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, on December 26, 2013,
President Obama signed into law the 2014 National Defense Authorization
Act, which sets policy and funding levels for the U.S. Department of
In large part, the bill went through regular committee order on the House side, with the consideration of amendments from both Republicans and Democrats. A somewhat similar series of actions was taken by the Senate. Despite a small amount of political theater, both Chambers not only found common ground in and passed this important measure, but in placing good policy before politics, Members overcame differences and acted in the best interests of the country--in this case, to the benefit of our men and women in uniform. Mr. Speaker, this is how the institution is supposed to work.
The measure offers our servicemembers resources to safely fulfill their [[Page H26]] missions and the support that they deserve when they return from service. I offered an amendment to the bill, which passed as part of the final agreement. This will help improve the support we offer those who serve as they transition to civilian life, especially those coping with behavioral health injuries.
Under the previous policy, servicemembers and their families could utilize 180 days of health care coverage during the transition from military to civilian life through what is known as TAMP, the Transitional Assistance Management Program. Unfortunately, posttraumatic stress and other behavioral injuries oftentimes do not present symptoms in some cases until 8 to 10 months after leaving the military. Now, this can be overwhelming if not debilitating for an individual seeking to reenter civilian life and start the next path. This amendment extends TAMP coverage by an additional 180 days for all services rendered through telemedicine.
The amendment builds on a bill I introduced in 2011, the STEP Act, now Public Law 112-81, section 713, which expanded Federal exemptions for telehealth consultations across State lines by removing the individual State requirement that health professionals must hold licenses in the State where servicemember care is received. Health care professionals who are credentialed by the Department of Defense are now able to offer these services regardless of the patient's physical location.
In addition, it allows military doctors to reach more patients, and it allows more patients to access care without the stigma often associated with the seeking of treatment for the first time. If desired, such support can now be accessed from the comfort of one's own home, through video teleconference, Skype, and a range of other telemedicine practices. In part due to this commonsense change, in 2012 the Army was able to perform nearly 36,000 teleconsultations, which includes over 31,200 telebehavioral health clinic encounters. The numbers continued to grow in 2013.
For those burdened by physical and psychological injuries as a result of their service in uniform, we must take every action to help them rebuild and become whole. Both of these policy changes are positive steps forward in modernizing how the Department of Defense delivers health care, making widespread telemedicine possible and accessible to those most in need.
Mr. Speaker, Washington remains divided as we begin the second session of the 113th Congress, but I remain hopeful in knowing that bipartisan accomplishments such as this can serve as a guiding light for this institution in the weeks and months to come.