Report Examines Readjustment Needs of Veterans and Troops

by U.S. Medicine

April 8, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC—DoD and VA should sponsor longitudinal studies to answer questions regarding long-term effect of TBI, PTSD and other mental health disorders, a recent IoM report recommended.

The IoM report, Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Servicemembers and their Families, was conducted as a result of a congressional requirement mandating DoD and VA to study the readjustment needs of returning veterans.

The report suggests that while VA and DoD are providing programs and policies to help returning troops readjust, in many cases “the response does not match the magnitude of the problems, and many readjustment needs are unmet or unknown.”

“The urgency of addressing those issues is heightened by the sheer number of people affected, the rapid drawdown of personnel from Afghanistan and Iraq, and the long-term effects that many of the issues might have not only on military personnel and veterans and their families but on the country as a whole,” the report stated.

 The report pointed out that most returning troops have readjusted well to post-deployment life, but that “44% have reported difficulties after they returned.”

“Significant numbers of personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and many have shown symptoms of posttraumatic stress disor­der (PTSD), depression, and substance misuse or abuse,” a summary of the report states.  “In the scientific literature, the estimates of the prevalence of those conditions among service members who served in these two conflicts range from 19.5 to 22.8% for mild TBI (commonly known as concussion), 4 to 20% for PTSD, 5 to 37% for depression, and 4.7 to 39 percent for problematic alcohol use.”

When it comes to studies on the impact of TBI, PTSD and other mental health disorders the committee stated that “data on shortterm outcomes is extensive, but data on longterm outcomes is less extensive and both can be challenged on methodological grounds.”

“To capture the longterm outcomes of deployment to war zones and plan services to address them, more data will be essential,” the report stated.

The report suggested that current studies like the Millennium Cohort Study and the Longitudinal Health Study of the Gulf War Era Veterans may provide a platform for long-term followup.

“Those studies can be augmented with supplementary samples of OEF, OIF and OND veterans,” the committee wrote. “Other factors that should define such studies include the ability to collect biologic specimens, oversampling of OEF, OIF, and OND female and minority-group populations, and planning for add-on studies to address new needs as they are identified.”

The report and all of its recommendations can be found at: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/Returning-Home-from-Iraq-and-Afghanistan.aspx

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