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AMHCA Reacts to Revised TRICARE Provider Qualifications

Thursday, November 26, 2015   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Whitney Meyerhoeffer
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 26, 2015
Contact: Jim Finley

AMHCA Reacts to Revised TRICARE Provider Qualifications

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - President Barak Obama has just signed into legislation the NDAA of 2016 (National Defense Authorization Act), (S.1356) which modifies TRICARE provider standards for certified mental health counselors (CMHCs). The annual Department of Defense policy bill authorizes military pay and benefits, including making modifications in the TRICARE program. An earlier version of the bill (HR.1735) was vetoed last month after becoming ensnared in a larger fight over spending. The final bill, that was just signed, removed the disputed budget language to win the president’s support, but it otherwise maintained the previous changes concerning TRICARE and CMHCs.

The bill, and now new law, extends TRICARE independent practitioner status to a broader group of state licensed counselors than originally included under the 2014 rule (for background see AMHCA TRICARE’s August 18, 2014, rule for certified mental health counselors). The final language is a compromise and recognizes graduates with master's or doctoral counseling degrees from CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) accredited programs in addition to master's or doctoral counseling degrees from programs accredited by 10 additional TRICARE recognized programs. Graduates from any of the 10 additional recognized programs will now have four additional years to apply for TRICARE independent practice.

The original 2014 rule would have led to an earlier adoption of exclusive recognition of CACREP accreditation, which would have enabled only graduates of CACREP accredited programs to be added after January 2017. In the new rule, the compromise language brings in a broader group of graduate degrees until 2021. This language increases the amount of time between now and when TRICARE will accept only graduates of CACREP accredited programs. When the final provision’s broader allowance expires in January 2021, the original 2014 rule will then go fully into effect. All practitioners who qualify for independent TRICARE status before 2021 will retain eligibility for independent status after the new rules expires in January 2021 and only new applicants will be restricted to those from CACREP accredited programs.

While the new language broadens the number of eligible programs and extends the time to exclusive recognition of CACREP accreditation, all new applicants beginning in 2017 will still be required to have passed the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

AMHCA is pleased the effective date of exclusive recognition of CACREP accreditation has been delayed. This new rule will better align TRICARE credentialing policy with NBCC’s previously announced transition to a January 2022 requirement that all NCC (National Certified Counselor) applicants must have a master’s degree or higher from a CACREP-accredited counseling program.

AMHCA President, Keith Mobley, Ph.D., described the new TRICARE policy “as a fair compromise because it extends the transition period to CACREP four more years, giving programs extra time to obtain accreditation, while enabling more current practitioners to come into the program.” Additionally, Mobley noted, “AMHCA is satisfied with the policy and will encourage its members to participate in the program.” He emphasized, "We are pleased the Department of Defense will be able to credential more qualified practitioners, while maintaining criteria that are consistent with the IOM's recommendation, particularly ensuring that all practitioners must pass a reasonable national exam (NCMHCE) We are also pleased that AMHCA will continue to be recognized by TRICARE as the national professional association that sets the standards for supervision of the profession."

For more information or questions about the final rule, please contact Jim Finley, AMHCA associate executive director and director of public policy, at

The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) works to enhance the profession of mental health counseling through advocacy, education, licensure, and professional development.

AMHCA, 675 North Washington Street, Suite 470, Alexandria, Va, 22314, 703-548-6002


Darrin Williams says...
Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Thank you for your advocating for not compromising on the NCMHCE to be required for all other therapists. Darrin Williams, LMHC, CAP
James N. Tanner LCPC says...
Posted Thursday, December 10, 2015
Thank you for working to get this extension.

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