As a follow up to Kate's post on the Rand study about post-traumatic stress disorder I wanted to note a couple of things. The LA Times article about the study says that "screening techniques for stress disorders are vastly improved from previous wars." That's true because treatment for PTSD basically didn't exist before Vietnam veterans began returning, but, as I've reported before, there are basically two things that will vastly improve the treatment and post-combat condition of incoming soldiers who could suffer from combat-related stress.
First, provide a comprehensive screening survey that would signal which soldiers are more likely to bring harm to themselves or others thanks to mental stress. This by no means would be a perfect system, especially since many soldiers feel stigma from combat-related stress and don't want to appear weak by saying they've had flashbacks or thoughts of suicide, but it would provide leaps and bounds of data for research on how to best treat soldiers for stress related in the future.
Second, there would need to be an huge increase in hiring of mental health professionals at VA hospitals. The backlog was estimated to be as much as six months last year when a veterans group sued the VA over long wait periods. Some veterans live too far away from a VA facility to realistically receive treatment for mental health on a regular basis will require funding to seek treatment elsewhere. There are fears that this would lead to privatization of the VA, but considering that the influx of possible cases grows larger by the day, this is the only realistic way to deal with the scattered nature of veterans from small-town America.
Kate noted that investing in high-quality treatment could save $2 billion. The initial reforms could cost a lot, but it's a good way to minimize the harm to veterans and their families.
-- Kay Steiger