Command Directed Mental Health Evaluations

Referral to a command directed mental health evaluation can be an extremely unsettling experience. In our experience, it's not unusual for commands to abuse the command directed mental health process. In that regard, it's important for you to know your rights.

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What is the regulation for command directed mental health evaluations? Department of Defense Instruction 6490.04, March 4, 2013, governs "Mental Health Evaluations of Members of the Military Services."

Who can refer a member to a command directed evaluation? "Any commissioned officer who exercises command authority over a Service Member.
What powers does it give to commanders? It empowers "commanders and supervisors who in good faith believe a subordinate Service member may require a mental health evaluation" to "direct an evaluation under this instruction or take other actions consistent" with the regulation.

It authorizes the commander to direct a CDE when:
(1) A member, by actions or words, such as actual, attempted, or threatened violence, intends or is likely to cause serious injury to him or herself or others;

(2) When facts and circumstances indicate that the Service member's intent to cause such injury is likely.

(3) When the commanding officer believes that the Service member may be suffering from a severe mental disorder.

The third situation is where commanders can abuse the regulation.

What is the good faith standard? Good faith means a sincere belief without improper purpose.

Can Command Directed Evaluations be used as a reprisal? No. Paragraph 3 (e) of the DoD Instruction states that "no one may refer a Service member" for evaluation as a reprisal for making a lawful communication described in the instruction.

Can a member be involuntarily hospitalized? The intent of the instruction is to have a psychiatrist or provider with admitting privileges to conduct the evaluation. The evaluation issues supposed to be conducted in the least restrictive manner. The doctor could admit the member to the hospital.

What rights does the member have? The member should be notified in writing of the evaluation at least two days before the appointment. The member has the right to contact an attorney and communicate with the IG. After admission to the hospital, the member has the right to contact a friend, chaplain, attorney, or any office of the Inspector General.

Should the member cooperate with the CDE? That is a question that requires consultation. Within 24 hours, the doctor will provide the commander with a diagnosis, prognosis, treatment plan, and suitability for service recommendation. When the CDE coincides with other legal trouble, a legal consultation is absolutely recommended.
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