The Institute of Medicine is part of a complex of institutes that includes the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences. This organization is not connected to government, but its advisers are consulted by Congress and its recommendations have made their way through the lawmaking process. This institute is calling for annual Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Screening for returning troops. The institute also calls for more work on evaluating treatment to see which therapies are working.
It is a little late in the game. Thousands of veterans have committed suicide, gone to jail for crimes committed under conditions of PTSD, and other life threatening conditions associated with the disorder.
According to Huffington Post, 2.6 million members of the armed forces have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and 13 to 20 percent are estimated to have symptoms of PTSD, which is “…triggered by a specific traumatic event, such as being in combat or witnessing death. The symptoms of the illness include a numbing of emotions, difficulty concentrating and exaggerated startled responses to events.”
While the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs Department offer medical evaluation and care for injured soldiers, there is a serious lack of tracking and work to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs. How this came to be is beyond belief since Afghan and Iraq War veterans are the definitive generation for suffering from PTSD.
The Veterans Administration medical care system does annual PTSD evaluations, but it is the Defense Department that seems to have dropped the ball on implementing regular annual checkups. Also, both agencies have established guidelines that received some praise, but guidelines are no good if they are not followed and evaluated for effectiveness in practical applications. In other words, someone got paid well for writing and thinking about PTSD, but has not proved that the guidelines are anywhere near effective or even necessary.
2011 was a miserable year for the Veteran’s Administration, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals received proof in Veterans for Common Sense v. Shinseki that the mental health department engaged in “unchecked incompetence”. PTSD sufferers were being turned away while a top mental health official wrote humorous memos demanding that his underlings cover up the scandal.
Later, the VA added 1,600 clinicians and 300 support workers to its mental health staff. But the nicely paid personnel have no answers to questions that have not even been asked. The problem is that physical brain damage, emotional trauma from the stress of prolonged exposure to combat, single incident trauma and a host of other traumas are lumped together under the umbrella of PTSD. How anyone expects to treat such an ill defined condition is the first question that needs to be answered.
It is a matter of too little done too late to save the thousands who died, but only after they safely made it home to an unhelpful Veterans Administration. The final problem with any PTSD program is the huge and uncured backlog in veterans claims. With no one assigning ratings for the disorder, it can be difficult, if not impossible to get care at a VA facility.