ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department’s security clearance applications should no longer ask whether applicants have ever sought treatment for mental health issues, according to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Gates told Pentagon reporters Thursday that he “will very aggressively pursue” removing the question about mental health treatment from DOD’s security clearance questionnaire.

Too many DOD employees do not seek mental health care specifically because they fear losing their security clearances, Gates said.

There are five levels of security clearances available. From lowest to highest, they are Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmentalized Information and Single Scope Background Investigation.

Removing the question about mental health treatment from security applications is one of more than 300 recommendations offered by the DOD’s Task Force on Mental Health in a report released last week.

The report said the military is falling significantly short of providing servicemembers and families with adequate mental health care, lacking the personnel and financial resources to support the force in peace, much less war.

“This is something that we can, must and will get fixed," Gates said Thursday, calling for “a culture of support for psychological support.”

Gates said that while Congress has given DOD six months to come back with a plan to implement the 331 recommendations of the mental health task force, “I have no intention of waiting that long.”

Instead, he is asking for the recommendations “to be completed within 60 to 90 days,” he said.

“It is our moral obligation and duty to make sure [servicemembers] are taken care of in mind, body and spirit,” Gates said. “They have done their duty, we must do ours.”

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