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My Coast Guard
Commentary | March 10, 2022

Policy update: Significant improvements to mental and behavioral health policies

By Kara Noto, MyCG

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, please seek help and speak with your primary care provider.

New updates to Coast Guard policy loosen restrictions and impacts on service members undergoing mental and behavioral health treatment for conditions including (but not limited to) anxiety and depressive disorders. This new approach, which mirrors the Department of Defense, ensures that members being treated for mental or behavioral health conditions are treated the same way as members being treated for “below the neck” conditions. Many service members that are fit for full duty and undergoing prolonged (greater than 12 months) treatment for mental and/or behavioral conditions will no longer require retention waivers and will not be subject to a medical evaluation board. Treatments may include medication, therapy, or counseling, but may not permanently interfere with your ability to perform your current duties.  The assessment of fitness for duty will be based on one’s ability to perform all functions associated with one’s present assignment and ability to remain worldwide deployable.

In support of this new policy, Coast Guard health services personnel will withdraw all waiver and medical evaluation board requests for members that are covered by these updates.  If members covered by these updates have already proceeded to waiver or medical evaluation board adjudication, health services personnel will submit updated information to ensure that a return to full duty with waiver decision is more likely. 

Physician and Chief of Operational Medicine, Capt. Shane Steiner, says the new policy is designed to encourage members to seek treatment for mental or behavioral health issues.  

“The Coast Guard always encourages members to seek care for any health concern that impacts their readiness,” said Steiner. “Mental and behavioral health conditions are no different. The facts are that these conditions are treatable, and we want members to get the treatment they need and remain in the Coast Guard.”  

Some specific mental health conditions and certain controlled prescription medicines, for example Ativan and stimulants, remain disqualifying if they must be used to achieve normal duty performance. Your medical provider can help you understand these exigent circumstances; all applicable policies are listed below.

To initiate treatment, talk with your primary care provider.  

Questions related to the policy can be directed to Capt. Shane Steiner, Chief, Division of Operational Medicine, Commandant (CG-1121).