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Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health Regarding PTSD Treatment and Research: Moving Ahead Toward Recovery

April 1, 2008

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Miller, Distinguished Members of this Subcommittee, and guests, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) thanks you for the opportunity to present our views on “PTSD Treatment and Research: Moving Ahead Toward Recovery.” VVA also thanks this Subcommittee for its concern about the mental health care of our troops and veterans, and your leadership in holding this hearing today.

However, as we are gathered here today after five years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, VVA is again sadly compelled to repeat its message that no one really knows how many of our OEF and OIF troops have been or will be affected by their wartime experiences. To be sure, there have been some attempts by the military services to address combat stress at pre-deployment through such cognitive awareness programs as “Battle Mind” and the use of innovative “combat stress teams”. Yet no one can really say how serious an individual soldier’s emotional and mental problems will become after actual combat exposure, or how chronic both the neuro-psychiatric wounds (e.g., PTSD and TBI) may become, or the resulting impact that these wounds will have on their physiological health and their general psycho-social readjustment to life away from the battle zone. VVA would like to ask if the armed services have developed any combat stress resiliency models and if so, what is their efficacy and by what measures?

Furthermore, despite the increased availability of behavioral health services to deployed military personnel, the true incidence of PTSD among active duty troops may still be underreported. A recent retrospective report on PTSD documented what most in the military already know: specifically, that of those whose evaluations were positive for a mental disorder, only 23 to 40 percent complained of, or sought help for, their mental health problems while still on active duty, primarily because of stigma. Thus no one knows whether those with PTSD who remain undiagnosed and so untreated will fail at reintegration upon their return to civilian life.

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