The Institute of Medicine (IOM), the health arm of the National Academy of Science, reports that the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are not providing effective PTSD treatment and have not, despite an investment of tens of millions of dollars, kept proper PTSD-related records or used effective methods to measure the effectiveness of outcomes.
The IOM’s study committee, headed by Sandro Galea, MD, of Columbia University, found that only one in four patients diagnosed with PTSD is actually receiving treatment for the disorder under DoD and VA programs. “Of the U.S. service members and veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and screened positive for PTSD symptoms, about 40 percent have received a referral for additional evaluation or treatment, and of those referred, about 65 percent go on to receive treatment,” said Galea.
DoD and VA failures in these areas, per the IOM, are also attributable to shortage of resources and individual resistance to treatment; however, the lack of PTSD-related data and of data-measurement makes it impossible to determine the relative significance of these factors with regard to the health systems’ failures to provide treatment.
Dr. Galea concluded that, “Both departments lack a coordinated, consistent, and well-developed evidence-based system of treatment for PTSD and need to do a better job tracking the outcome. Mental health is among the most important factors behind successful re-entry into civilian life, and we don’t know if treatments are working.”
The IOM’s findings point to a system-wide crisis in the treatment of PTSD. VA and DoD clinical social workers may be in a position to help solve these problems and improve the ability of their health systems to address a critical need.
What is your experience in matching those with PTSD to the treatment they need? Soon we will sponsor a VA forum for the discussion of such issues.