TESTING THE TROOPS.

TESTING THE TROOPS. Over the weekend, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on some Minnesota National Guard troops who have elected to be part of a VA study monitoring the effects of deployment on a soldier. The study, funded by the Department of Defense, began

nearly two years ago, [when researcher Melissa Polusny] and three other VA psychologists went to Camp Shelby, Miss., where 2,500 Minnesota Guard troops were preparing to deploy to Iraq. Of those, 531 agreed to fill out 22-page questionnaires covering everything from their childhood and family life to how they handle setbacks.

This is exactly the kind of monitoring that could give the VA a better idea of how combat stress affects veterans after they've returned from a deployment. Some experts proposed making such testing mandatory, so as to reduce the stigma of PTSD symptoms like sleeplessness, flashbacks, and emotional isolation. Broad testing, of course, can be very expensive. The Minnesota study is of a self-selected group of soldiers, so it may not be an entirely accurate picture. But research into combat stress is so scarce that even a small study such as this could have a big impact.

--Kay Steiger

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