WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined her colleagues yesterday in introducing bipartisan legislation to expand eating disorder treatment access for U.S. service members, veterans, and their dependents.

Studies have found that 16 percent of female veterans have or have had an eating disorder and 20 percent of female adolescent dependents of a service member are at risk for an eating disorder. Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rates of any mental health illness, due to physical risks and elevated risk of suicide, second only to substance use disorders.

“Individuals suffering from eating disorders—including our service members, veterans, and their dependents—should all have access to important treatment services to help them cope with this disease,” Senator Capito said. “By expanding this type of treatment under TRICARE for our service members, our veterans, and their dependents, we can do just that and ensure that military leaders are equipped with the tools needed to identify these issues and address the problem head-on. We owe so much to our service members who put it all on the line to defend our freedoms, and this legislation will allow us to make sure they have the proper health care they deserve.”

The Supporting Eating Disorders Recovery Through Vital Expansion (SERVE) Act would expand access to treatment for eating disorders under TRICARE and increase mental health early identification within the Armed Forces. 

Specifically, the bill would: 

  • Clarify that under TRICARE, eating disorders treatment shall be provided to beneficiaries without age limitations when medically necessary.
  • Identify eating disorders as a health condition to be treated and ensure that facilities are available to treat these disorders for all service members.
  • Require mental health early identification training be taken by commanders or supervisory personnel, as many are currently not provided the resources to help identify signs and symptoms of mental illnesses like eating disorders.

Bill text of the legislation is available here.

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