Serving in Iraq doesn't lead to problems, right?
GAO: Few Troops Are Treated for Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Risk Gauged
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 11, 2006; A08
Nearly four in five service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were found to be at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were never referred by government clinicians for further help, according to a Government Accountability Office report due for release today.
The report says Defense Department officials were unable to explain why only some troops were referred for help. Many veterans groups have accused the government of playing down the risk of PTSD because of concerns over skyrocketing costs.
Service members were determined to be at risk for PTSD, a serious psychiatric disorder characterized by disruptive memories and anxieties following traumatic episodes, if they gave three or more positive answers on a screening questionnaire asking whether they had nightmares about frightening experiences, had avoided situations that reminded them of such events, were constantly on guard, or felt numb or detached from everyday life.
In all, 9,145 of 178,664 service members who took the screening test were found to be at risk. Of those at risk, 22 percent were referred for help. The Army and Air Force each referred 23 percent of those at risk, the Navy 18 percent and the Marines about 15 percent, according to a draft of the report obtained by The Washington Post.
The final report will have the formal responses from the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. In the draft report, Pentagon officials are quoted as saying that not all service members who gave positive responses on the screening test needed help, but the report said the officials could not specify what factors are involved in referring some people but not others.
Asked to comment late yesterday, the Defense Department said only that it has "several comprehensive and proactive programs to deal with PTSD." Spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said the most knowledgeable officials were not available so late in the day.
"You would think that [referrals for treatment] would be the point of the whole screening tool," said Veterans Affairs spokesman Jim Benson. He said that the Defense Department was solely responsible for administering the screening test and making referral decisions.
posted by Steve @ 11:23:00 AM