by Dan Lawton DisaboomAs the war in Iraq winds down and the conflict in Afghanistan expands, U.S. forces are continuing to experience record cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).Recent statistics show that more than 90,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, a figure that accounts for approximately 23 percent of those who seek care with the Veterans Administration.
Currently, there are a number of bills before Congress that would benefit veterans with PTSD and their families. Additionally, the military is expanding its effort to increase outreach to soldiers with PTSD.
The Combat PTSD Act (H.R. 952): Simplifies Veteran Benefits
Introduced by Rep. John Hall, the Combat PTSD Act would simplify the process for veterans with PTSD to receive benefits. Currently, the VA requires a degree of corroborating evidence to prove that veterans experienced trauma during combat. The process is fraught with inefficiency—it often requires tracking down witnesses and reports—and prevents many veterans with PTSD from getting treatment. If passed, all veterans who served in combat zones and manifested PTSD symptoms would be treated.
The Kyle Barthel Veterans and Service Member Mental Health Screening Act
Named after a New Mexico solider who committed suicide after battling with PTSD, this bill would provide a mandatory mental health screening for soldiers when joining the military, before and after deployment, and previous to discharge. Suicide rates in the Army have increased 60 percent since 2003 and recent incidents such as the shooting spree by Sgt. John Russell at a Baghdad combat stress clinic have shown a need for more comprehensive mental health evaluations for PTSD.
Action from Obama Administration and the VA on PTSD
Included in The Recovery Act was more than $1.4 million to benefit the VA, a portion of which will be used to hire 1,500 temporary workers to expedite claims. Eligible veterans will also receive one-time payments of $250 in June of 2009 to mitigate the effects of the economy. Last year, the Pentagon spent $300 million on PTSD research and is ramping up its efforts at addressing PTSD with a PR campaign aimed at countering the stigma of PTSD diagnoses.
New efforts at treating PTSD symptoms consist of meditation and home-based and computer counselors. Researchers are also looking into pharmaceutical treatments that might prevent some of the stressful effects of combat on the brain.
PTSD Resources and Additional Information
The National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, provides information, fact sheets, definitions, and self-diagnosis quizzes for those who think they may be experiencing PTSD symptoms.
AfterDeployment.org is a “mental wellness resource for service members, veterans and their families. Its mission is to help soldiers and their loved ones adjust to many of the problems encountered when veterans return from deployment.
Winning the War Within is a blog written by author Ilona Meagher about developments, issues and resources related to PTSD. It features a comprehensive blogroll of other PTSD related blogs as well.