Donnelly’s 2014 Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act was added, in full, to this year’s Defense Authorization bill, which has been approved every year for the last 52 consecutive years.
The bill would require annual mental health assessments for all military service members – not just active duty, but National Guard and reservists as well.
Donnelly says it would also ensure those assessments remain confidential.
“There have been thoughts in the past: ‘If I go to seek help, will it affect my ability to get a promotion?’ And we don’t ever want any of our men and women to worry that the positive step of trying to seek help and seek answers would ever affect your career,” Donnelly says.
Jeff Sexton’s son Jacob, for whom Donnelly’s bill is named, killed himself at his Indiana home while on leave from Afghanistan in 2009. Sexton says he’s proud of the progress that’s been made but says the fight isn’t over.
“Any military family knows all it takes is the stroke of a pen and your family member could be thousands of miles away from you,” Sexton says. “So we need to make the stroke of a pen to make sure everything gets taken care of.”
Donnelly’s bill also requires the Department of Defense to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure National Guard and reservists with private insurance get the proper treatment.