D.C.) –“After five years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the true incidence of PTSD remains underreported, primarily because of stigma,” noted Dr. Tom Berger, chair of the Vietnam Veterans of America’s PTSD and Substance Abuse Committee before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Healthcare.
The need for effective, evidence-based psychiatric/psychological interventions is acute. “Have the armed services developed any combat stress resiliency models, and if so, what is their efficacy and by what measures,” Berger asked.
“No one really knows how many OEF and OIF troops have been or will be affected by their wartime experiences. Beyond speculation, the more combat exposure soldiers experience, the greater the odds they will suffer mental and emotional stress—and our troops are seeing more and longer deployments, ” Berger noted.
“Without proper diagnosis and treatment, these men and women will be at high risk for self-medication and abuse with alcohol and drugs, domestic violence, unemployment and underemployment, homelessness, incarceration, medical co-morbidities such as cardiovascular diseases, and suicide. But such integrated treatment programs take time and cost money—and with the larger number of veterans involved, lots of money, along with accountability for expenditure,” said Berger.
Veterans seeking help within the VA healthcare system are facing yet other obstacles in the search for mental health treatment and recovery programs. Despite an infusion of dollars and the creation of more Vet Centers, the influx of demands by OEF and OIF veterans in many localities around the country is squeezing the ability to treat veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.