The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe and maintain regulations relating to commanding officer and supervisor referrals of members of the armed forces for mental health evaluations. The regulations shall incorporate the requirements set forth in subsections (b), (c), and (d) and such other matters as the Secretary considers appropriate.
(b) Reduction of Perceived Stigma.—The regulations required by subsection (a) shall, to the greatest extent possible—
seek to eliminate perceived stigma associated with seeking and receiving mental health services, promoting the use of mental health services on a basis comparable to the use of other medical and health services; and
clarify the appropriate action to be taken by commanders or supervisory personnel who, in good faith, believe that a subordinate may require a mental health evaluation.
(c) Procedures for Inpatient Evaluations.—The regulations required by subsection (a) shall provide that, when a commander or supervisor determines that it is necessary to refer a member of the armed forces for a mental health evaluation—
the health evaluation shall only be conducted in the most appropriate clinical setting, in accordance with the least restrictive alternative principle; and
(d) Prohibition on Use of Referrals for Mental Health Evaluations to Retaliate Against Whistleblowers.—
The regulations required by subsection (a) shall provide that no person may refer a member of the armed forces for a mental health evaluation as a reprisal for making or preparing a lawful communication of the type described in section 1034(c)(2) of this title, and applicable regulations. For purposes of this subsection, such communication shall also include a communication to any appropriate authority in the chain of command of the member.
(e) Definitions.—In this section:
The term “mental health professional” means a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, a person with a doctorate in clinical social work, or a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist.
The term “mental health evaluation” means a psychiatric examination or evaluation, a psychological examination or evaluation, an examination for psychiatric or psychological fitness for duty, or any other means of assessing the state of mental health of a member of the armed forces.
(3) The term “least restrictive alternative principle” means a principle under which a member of the armed forces committed for hospitalization and treatment shall be placed in the most appropriate and therapeutic available setting—