A panel of experts is recommending that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan be screened for post-traumatic stress disorder at least once a year. The report from The Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., was ordered by congress and funded by the Department of Defense.
At Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, returning soldiers are screened at set intervals starting a week after they return from oversees.
The IOM’s report is the first comprehensive look at the government's programs for treating what's been called one of the war's most vexing problems.
Officials at Western Regional Medical Command wouldn’t comment on the panels’ recommendations. Public Affairs Officer Jeremy O'Bryan says soldiers are screened within seven days of their return. Re-assessments are done at 90 and 180 days.
Research suggests that as many as 20 percent of soldiers and veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have symptoms of PTSD. Still, many never seek treatment for fear it would jeopardize their military career.
In recent years both the DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs have stepped up their efforts to screen for and treat PTSD in soldiers. However, the Institute of Medicine's report concluded that considerable gaps remain. They say more needs to be done to improve screening and diagnosis of PTSD.
Medical Command’s Jeremy O’Bryan stresses that one of the most important tools for combating PTSD is training and awareness. He says while soldiers may have intermittent contact with behavioral health professionals, family members and co-workers are often the first to recognize a problem.
The report also recommends that that federal agencies conduct more research to determine how well available PTSD treatments are working. The second part of the Institute of Medicine's report will look more closely at that. It isn’t expected to be completed until 2014.
Copyright 2012 KUOW
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