DoD Updates Deployment Health Requirements Policy

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2006 - Defense Department civilians and contractors who are deployed overseas will be included in military health protection measures for the first time as part of an upcoming new policy, senior DoD officials said here today.

The new policy, DoD Instruction 6490.03, titled, "Deployment Health," leverages technological advances like electronic medical recordkeeping in the quest to improve the quality of military healthcare, Dr. William J. Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told Pentagon reporters during a telephonic news briefing.

"No military in history has done more to reach out to its servicemembers with respect to their physical and mental health," Winkerwerder said.

"We will keep working to improve our system," he said. "It's important that we do it right, because of the great people that we are serving."

Use of pre- and post-deployment health assessments and the implementation of globally transmittable electronic health care records are making a major impact on preventing, identifying and treating health care problems for deployed servicemembers, Winkenwerder said.

The new policy specifies mandatory post-deployment health reassessments across the services and updates health care policies for overseas deployments. It also improves the capability of computerized records to keep track of localized health trends among deployed servicemembers, defense civilians and contractors.

"What is more robust today, and more granular and detailed and documented, is both the medical information, as well as the environmental and location information," Winkenwerder said.

Because defense civilians and contractors are being sent overseas along with military members in support of the global war on terrorism, officials decided they should be part of the military's deployment health system, Winkenwerder said.

National Guard and reserve members also are included in the new deployment health policy, said Ellen P. Embrey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection and readiness.

The new policy seeks to obtain and document deployed reserve-component members' health care information while they're on active duty, Embrey said. After departing active-duty status, reserve-component members can work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to address post-deployment health care concerns, she said.

The VA provides health care for veterans of combat operations for up to two years following their deployment, Embrey said.

"That, in combination with a series of new programs offered to reserve-component members here in the department, provides a wide array of opportunities to seek care for their health issues, both physical and mental," she said.

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