Scout’s Obsession with the GAO: Iraq/Afghan vets and PTSD

There are no new GAO reports to bring you. But here is a very good article from the Greensboro by Lex Alexander on a North Carolina report on PTSD among state vets and how to address the issue. The article also includes info from a 2004 GAO report on the VA and treatment of PTSD.

Because more people are discharged from the service in North Carolina than in almost any other state, the state has particular reason to be concerned about veterans’ well-being.

Whatever problems are coming may not be apparent soon. Charles S. Smith, the director of the N.C. Division of Veterans Affairs, estimates that no more than 15 percent of veterans who need mental-health services now are seeking them.

Nationwide the number of vets being treated for PTSD “nearly doubled during a recent nine-month period, from 20,394 in September 2005 to 38,144 patients in June.” Those numbers are expected to grow and there appears to be a greater vulnerability with Guard and Reserve units…

The high percentage of National Guard and Reserve units among those seeing combat creates greater vulnerability, as well: 15 percent of members of such units were found to be at risk for PTSD three to six months after returning home, compared with 9 percent of active-duty personnel.

The nature of this war — where there is no identifiable front line, units sometimes must kill up close in house-to-house combat, deadly roadside bombs can be anywhere and it’s sometimes impossible to tell friend from foe — is particularly conducive to PTSD.

The GAO reference…

A September 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office found that the VA could not even determine how many people it was then treating, let alone whether it could serve an increase in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.

More from a House Committee survey …

A survey of 60 of the nation’s 207 vet centers earlier this year by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs found that:

*All have seen significant increases in services to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

*Half say that increased demand has hurt their ability to serve their existing case load.

*40 percent have directed veterans to group therapy who nevertheless needed more intensive individual therapy.

*20 percent could provide services only for veterans, not their families. Experts say family plays a key role in helping veterans overcome PTSD and readjust to civilian life.

The article discusses what NC hopes to do in response and also discusses a program to address mental health concerns of active-duty personnel in Iraq.

(h/t to anonymous in a previous Obsession’s comments)

5 thoughts on “Scout’s Obsession with the GAO: Iraq/Afghan vets and PTSD

  1. Yeah, we don’t hear a lot of talk about these “wounded” vets. The numbers will likely continue to increase, but that will be the tip of th iceberg, because many will not seek help.
    This article from Stars and Stripes [] from last December tells part of the story.
    WASHINGTON — Army researchers saw alcohol misuse rise from 13 percent among soldiers to 21 percent one year after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, underscoring the continuing stress of deployment for some troops.
    In post-deployment reassessment data completed in July, researchers also saw soldiers with anger and aggression issues increase from 11 percent to 22 percent after deployment. Those planning to divorce their spouse rose from 9 percent to 15 percent after time spent in the combat zone.

    These veterans need help.

  2. Looking at the fallout of war (psych problems, family abuse, substance abuse [which is criminalized and leads to crime] and physical disabilities) which lasts for at least 60 years (more if you think about the families affected by daddy’s little problem)
    This makes an awful good argument that the price of war is too high to play.

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