US Military Facing Shortage of Mental Health Workers: GAO

The US military is facing a shortage of mental health workers, forcing troops to seek help elsewhere and wait for weeks to receive appointments.

A recent study by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that 43 percent of behavioral health care jobs within the Defense Health Agency (DHA) were vacant as of January 2023.

This has resulted in soldiers often being referred to local communities, where appointments can reportedly take up to 30 days.

“Our analysis showed that service members with urgent referrals to civilian behavioral health care providers are waiting an average of more than 2-3 weeks for their first appointment,” the report noted.

The staffing shortage is attributed to the slow hiring process within the agency and the failure to offer competitive pay compared to the private sector, according to the GAO.

Monitoring Failure

The DHA usually provides medical care for troops within military treatment facilities.

However, when that option is not possible due to staff shortages, the agency refers troops to civilian mental health care providers that accept military health insurance.

The GAO report claimed that the DHA fails to properly monitor its referrals, especially how long these referrals are taking.

Without proper monitoring, the watchdog said the agency will not be able to identify and address what is causing the delays in receiving care.

According to DHA director Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, when service members are referred off base, they are responsible for making their own appointments. This gives the DHA less control over the situation.

Related Articles

Back to top button