Thursday, April 17, 2008

One In Five Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Suffer from PTSD or Major Depression

The Rand Corporation published a study today that states that nearly 20 percent (300,000) of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression.

Only slightly more the half reporting symptoms sought treatment. The reasons most often sighted for not seeking treatment were the potential negative effect on career progress. Of those who sought treatment approximately half received minimally acceptable levels of treatment.

In addition, researchers found about 19 percent of returning service members report that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed, with 7 percent reporting both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.

"There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Terri Tanielian, the project's co-leader and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation.

Researchers also found an urgent need to train more mental health providers throughout the U.S. health care system on delivering evidence-based treatments to service members and veterans. While many opportunities for treatment exist for active-duty personnel, there is no system in place to monitor the quality of those services to ensure they are getting the latest science-based forms of treatment.

Researchers suggest special training programs are needed to instruct mental health providers in the military, veterans and civilian health systems about the type of evidence-based treatments needed by service members. Only providers with such training should be eligible to treat service members and payment programs should be retooled to reward providers who use science-based treatments. "It's going to take system-level changes — not a series of small band-aids — to improve treatments for these illnesses," Tanielian said.

Regrettably much of this problem was foreseen and preventable. Health professionals across the services recognized the potential for both cognitive and psychological injuries before the first deployment to Afghanistan. For years and to this day the DoD, VA and Tricare have actively avoided applying technologies that would have screened, identified, cataloged and tracked these wounded service members. For Rand to suggest the DoD, VA and Triacare to be left entrusted with supervising the care of the service members is laughable. The leadership of these entities have failed to address either psychological or cognitive injuries for seven years. In addition, Congress, the Senate and Veterans Organizations have been aware of both the problem and solutions for years and have done nothing to fix the problem. Casualty counts will increase by an order of magnitude, treatment costs will explode and disability payments will sore. No one wants Instead, many of these service members will end up on the streets, in the penal system, in morgues, alcoholic and/or drug addicted. Well done.

It is time to remove the current leadership for all elements or military and veterans’ medical care. Further, the commanders responsible for this gross maltreatment of our service members should be identified, have their pensions reclaimed, be reduced in rank, cashiered and have their medical licenses revoked for negligence. When the Walter Reade scandal broke, General Kiley, the US Army Surgeon General, suffered no injury. He was given an office in the Pentagon and will retire as a full three star general. It sent the message to all line officers that regardless of how you treat the wounded as long as you keep the costs down you are only risk public ridicule. If you fight for better treatment for our service members, you are making a career limiting decision.

Expect no change, no one cares. It is an election year, and vets are like puppies. You got to love them publicly but who cares when they are out of sight.

The report is titled "Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery." The full report and several summaries are available at

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