ACA Provision in National Defense Authorization Act Signed by President Obama

Dec 02, 2015
New law allows independent practice of Licensed Professional Counselors in TRICARE.

Culminating a three year effort by ACA, President Obama signed the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act on November 26. The law includes an amendment allowing Licensed Professional Counselors to practice independently under the Department of Defense’s TRICARE system. TRICARE serves as the health insurance program for more than 4.8 million members of the US Armed Forces and their dependents.

“ACA fought to ensure that all of its members would enjoy the same recognition as other mental health professionals in the TRICARE system,” said Thelma Duffey, ACA President. “Our leadership’s commitment to ensuring that all counselors could continue to engage in their vocation led us to utilize many of our resources to advocate in Congress and thankfully, Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), championed our issue and sponsored this amendment.”

The NDAA will now allow TRICARE beneficiaries to have access to the mental healthcare that they deserve, explained Duffey.

“When President Obama signed this bill into law, upwards of 150,000 Licensed Professional Counselors in the United States became eligible to provide treatment to members of the Armed Forces without any barriers and to practice independently,” said Richard Yep, ACA CEO, “I want to express my thanks to the ACA Government Affairs staff, led by its director, Art Terrazas for such a herculean effort.”

As the nation’s largest professional association representing Licensed Professional Counselors, the American Counseling Association (ACA) applauds Congressman Bishop’s leadership on this issue and commends him for having the courage to fight for the amendment.

“ACA strives not only to advance the counseling profession, but to secure access to professional mental healthcare for all Americans. The path towards securing passage of this law was long, difficult, and sometimes ran into opposition,” said Art Terrazas, ACA Director of Government Affairs.

Terrazas noted that ACA was the only professional membership organization advocating for this amendment. “This amendment ensures that all qualified and appropriately trained licensed professional counselors will be recognized as mental health clinicians who can serve active duty, veterans, and our nation’s military families with the services they so greatly need and deserve,” said Terrazas.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, advocated for by ACA, and signed into law by the President, will allow Licensed Professional Counselors who received their counseling degree from regionally accredited programs in counseling to become independent practitioners under TRICARE until 2021. For more information, contact Art Terrazas, ACA Director of Government Affairs at 800-347-6647, ext. 242.

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