November 24, 2014, ARLINGTON, Va. – About 140,000 service members who have been chosen at random from the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve have received an email alert to link them to the Health Related Behavior Survey for the Reserve Component, or HRBS-RC.
Although the survey invitation and link come through a service member’s military email address, the survey may be taken from non-military computers, enabling the survey to be completed on the member’s own schedule without having to fit it in during a drill weekend or at the office.
Officials say it’s the first time such a survey has been available on the Internet. The survey went online in September but has been extended to encourage more extensive participation.
The confidential health-behavior survey has been an important way for DoD to gain information about warfighters ever since DoD leaders realized more than three decades ago that there was a sizeable gap in their knowledge of military personnel health and behavior. They created the survey as a way for service members to convey sensitive information about alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use, mental health and stress, deployment history, sexual health and other health-related issues.
“The data that we collect from the HRBS-RC is invaluable,” said Kimberley Marshall, PhD, manager of HRBS-RC within the analytics division of the Defense Health Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office. “It’s important to understand that this survey truly affects the services, policies and programs that we provide – and the more participation and honest answers given will help improve the health and wellness of our entire reserve component force.”
The survey became a way for Military Health System leaders to craft new policies and expand or cut existing programs for active duty members. In 2006, it was expanded to the reserves. Now, every three years, both active duty and reserves participate in the survey. Although the survey results have always been confidential, until now, reserve members have filled it out in person.
“This new shift from in-person to online participation is an exciting step for the HRBS-RC, and was executed to make its completion as easy and accessible as possible for our reserve members,” Marshall said. “We know that everyone in the reserves has a busy schedule, often holding a civilian job and serving their country at the same time, so Web participation lends them the ability to complete the survey whenever and wherever is convenient.”
Reserve members will also have access to a survey hotline for any questions from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday.
The service is run by a third-party contracting team. The same contracting team is also collecting all of the data, an important factor to abate any concerns of possible retaliatory actions against reserve members.
“The HRBS-RC is extensive and extremely personal. Because of this, we’ve taken every precaution to ensure the confidentiality of all participants,” explained Marshall. “Completed questionnaires are submitted directly to a civilian scoring contractor, so no member of the military will ever see your completed questionnaire. They will only see the final combined aggregate data of all participants.”
DoD asks all Reservists to check your .mil account inboxes to see if you’re one of the 140,000 Reserve members selected.