USAF Modernizes Its Policies On Mental Health Treatment


The United States Air Force recently updated its policy on mental health. USAF Air Mobility Command (AMC) leader Gen. Mike Minihan announced plans to eliminate stigma, increase access and add options to support Air Force personnel.

Among the concrete moves, the Air Force’s Medical Standards Directory and Aerospace Medicine Waiver Guide has been modified to enable airmen to receive 60 days of treatment for mental health issues without the requirement for a return-to-duty waiver in order to fly. The change benefits personnel throughout the service in accessing treatment for stress, post-traumatic stress and other mental-health-related conditions. Before the change, receiving treatment for mental health issues meant significant time on non-flying status while facing evaluation, treatment and mandatory “stabilization periods” before being eligible to submit a waiver to return to duty. Airmen were disincentivized to seek treatment because the delays could negatively affect their careers, delaying upgrades, postponing formal training and interfering with eligibility for career development programs and other opportunities for advancement.

The AMC also established its Warrior Mental Health working group, with a mandate to establish pathways to care, strengthen command teams and, where deemed necessary, advocate for updates to mental health policies based on the most current medical standards. The working group lead, C-130J Super Hercules pilot Maj. Jane Marlow, came to the group largely due to her own personal experience with treatment.

She said, “Like so many of my peers, I delayed seeking care until I was in a non-flying assignment because I knew that, as a pilot, the moment I picked up the phone to schedule that appointment, I would be grounded for an indefinite period. The trauma care I went through was life-changing. I knew that I was, without a doubt, a safer pilot, a better leader, and a stronger wingman because of the care I received. Yet I was still required to spend months in a non-flying status because of my diagnosis.” According to the Air Force, the Warrior Mental Health working group consists of more than 50 aircrew members, 12 aviation psychologists, a pilot physician, flight surgeons across the Joint Force and a specialized doctor from NASA.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Now this is good if not groundbreaking news for the fighters in “our” military. The nonsense stigma attached to anyone requesting help is wrong. Everyone has “issues” and some take longer to surface so that good appropriate care can be given. Understanding, support and help are critical to enable a good return to duties and a fundamental stepping stone to achieving good leadership and a healthy workplace. This needs to happen!

  2. Air Farce, give them pink BDU’s and warm weather high heels, never lonely at air force only.

  3. As a USAF retiree, I’d be willing to bet serious denaro that this ‘move’ has nothing to do with mental health and more to do with the fact that the Service is having a recruiting/retention/pilot problem. This is one way to ameliorate those issues while simultaneously ‘stroking’ folks. It’s probably a good move but my position is that the underlying motive isn’t as it seems here.

    • Agree, Larry. While it is likely a positive move, it is clearly aimed at pilot retention. But considering the cost of training new pilots, this is likely an economic move as well.

    • With so many people in the USA and so few military planes flying, WHY are they needing to keep “mental health patients” flying? Has the Air Force come to be that bad of a place to work these days?

      • I can answer that simply … I would NOT join today’s military knowing what I know from times past.
        While I view today’s USAF as STILL being the Service of choice, it is SO woke and SO political it’s heart breaking. IF I had a kid, I’d steer them away from any consideration of a military career. That said, today’s youth IS the problem. They’re not being reared properly — in many cases — so the military is lowering their standards knowing full well that IF they were as ‘stiff’ as in times past, few would serve and most WOULD have mental issues. THAT is the basis of the mental health dilemma today. Issue and order they don’t like and they’ll ‘cry’ in many cases. Much of the problem can also be traced to the senior officers serving today … different than yesteryear. You don’t get that high in rank without learning how to poke your nose SO far up the — well, you know — of the guy above you that it becomes the normal modus operandi. Look no further than the SecDef’s action during his illness, for an example. In times past … he’da been fired.
        I have no problem with improving the mental health situation within the military, however, I also view the move as more “accommodation” than true care in and of itself.

  4. The success of military operations relies on maintaining a disciplined, skilled, and prepared force. In plain terms, the updates to the USAF’s policies are a smart and optimistic move. While these changes aim to improve recruitment and retain valuable staff, they also represent a significant shift in mindset. This shift recognizes the vital importance of mental health in creating a strong and effective military—a truly mentally healthy, lean, green, national security and defense force!

    By prioritizing mental health from the start, the Air Force not only functions more effectively but also aligns with current expectations for workplace wellness and employee care. These advancements are likely to improve life for everyone involved and strengthen a more capable and adaptable military.

    • “aligns with current expectations for workplace wellness and employee care”

      MY workplace does not give people machine guns and rockets and bombs.
      MY expectation is that when serious killing power is given that those who receive it are NOT working through “mental issues”.

        • Current expectations for workplace wellness and employees who handle bombs and machine guns have to be different than “office workers”. In no way should we align the military to lesser standards and in no way will lessening standards strengthen military preparedness and effectiveness. This is not a “smart move”; quite the reverse.

          • Removing disincentives to treatment is a raising of standards, not a lessening of them. I’m grateful that mindsets like what you and Larry are expressing here are slowly dying away.

      • The military routinely conducts mental health assessments of its members before they enlist and continues to monitor their mental health throughout their careers to identify any risks. Despite these efforts, some issues may still slip through the cracks. It’s crucial to manage these conditions effectively through medical treatment and support. This approach is essential not only for the individual’s health but also for maintaining the safety and operational effectiveness of their entire unit.

        • Right, Raf and Art. When I served in SAC with access to “cocked” airplanes, I was subject to a Human Reliability program … back in the 60’s and 70’s. IF someone had an issue removing them, they didn’t get close to those assets. NOW, I guess you could. Seems like an accident in the making.

    • “The success of military operations relies on maintaining a disciplined, skilled, and prepared force.”

      That went out the door with pronouns, tax payer funded reproductive organ mutilation, drag shows, drumming out of religious airmen, prosecuting/drumming out servicemembers that didn’t take the experimental gene therapy drug, and other woke nonsense. a.k.a anything antithetical to sane, rational thought and good order.

      • The military is a subset of the larger Society. Typically, the stats that apply to Society also are reflected in the military stats. We in a HEEP O Trouble !!

    • While I applaud the attempt to do something to address the ludicrous level of insanity that our society has pushed into the military, I do not think this is the way to do it. If the service were truly “prioritizing mental health from the start” every service member would have regular sessions with mental health professionals. It’s a lot easier – and more effective – to fix something before it gets to be a problem.

      Sadly though the mental health community has abandoned its duty in service of political correctness. Our country will continue to degrade until and unless these folks come back to reason and common sense.

  5. There is a mental health procedure that Veterans can receive called ECT/Electroshock. It is no longer just for depression nor used as a last resort. This is low voltage electrical trauma that results at minimum of an acquired TBI misrepresented with short and long term systemic risks. Research CETRI out of Chicago to find damages that result from low voltage electrical trauma. There is a significant risk for suicide following ECT when patients can find little help to address their repeated brain injuries that can go into the double and triple digits. Big money around this and bigger cover-ups. No FDA testing in 8 decades for safety or effectiveness of devices used or procedure. Law suits now around devices used and there is medical malpractice interest around consent and medical battery. Contact Baum/Wisner in CA involved in device suit that is national. See site ectjustice. Speak out or post about this harmful practice under the guise of help.