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Shaheen, Tillis Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Support Service Members & Military Families with Coverage for Eating Disorder Treatments

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to expand access to eating disorder treatments for U.S. service members and their families.

Studies show that women in the armed forces are disproportionately impacted by eating disorders, affecting military readiness and health. Further, 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.

“Our service members deserve the highest quality health care to help heal both physical and mental wounds,” said Shaheen. “I’m proud to reintroduce legislation that recognizes our service members’ mental health matters just as much as physical health by expanding TRICARE coverage of eating disorder treatments for service members, retirees and their dependents. We owe a great debt to our military for the sacrifices that come with service, and offering them the assistance they need to stay healthy must be our top priority.”

"The prevalence of eating disorders among servicemembers and their families is unacceptable," said Senator Tillis. "Congress must provide our men and women in uniform with the right tools to combat eating disorders, and I'm proud to reintroduce the SERVE Act with Senator Shaheen to improve access and care for those affected."

“The EDC is thrilled to see the Senate version of the Supporting Eating Disorders Recovery Through Vital Expansion (SERVE) Act introduced today in the United States Senate,” said EDC Board President Chase Bannister, MDIV, MSW, LCSW, CEDS. “This legislation will help military family members access the eating disorders care they need and deserve, and require the Secretary of Defense, DoD, and VA to take steps to improve the identification and treatment of servicemembers affected by eating disorders.”

Specifically, the Supporting Eating Disorders Recovery Through Vital Expansion (SERVE) Act would:

  • Clarify that under TRICARE, eating disorders treatment shall be provided to beneficiaries without age limitations when medically necessary.
  • Require the Secretary of Defense to take steps to identify, treat, and rehabilitate service members affected by eating disorders.
  • Direct the Department of Defense to establish clinical practice guidelines on eating disorder treatment.

The SERVE Act is also cosponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Shaheen has repeatedly worked to expand TRICARE coverage and access to mental health care for service members and their families. She successfully included in the Senate-approved NDAA for FY 2021 language based on the SERVE Act, encouraging the expansion of eating disorder treatments for service members under TRICARE. Also last year, the Defense Health Agency announced that it would expand TRICARE coverage for telehealth services following Shaheen’s bipartisan efforts.