U.S. Must Step Up Response to Vets, Report Says03/26/13
TUESDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Timely and adequate health
care is needed to help U.S. military personnel and their families
readjust to life after deployment, an Institute of Medicine report
The departments of defense and veterans affairs also must step
up efforts to reduce the stigma associated with receiving care for
mental health and substance abuse problems, the report said. They
also should ensure their methods of diagnosis and treatment are in
line with the latest medical evidence, according to the report,
which was requested by Congress.
"Although several federal agencies are actively trying to address the support needs of current and former service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families, the response has been slow and has not matched the magnitude of this population's requirements as many cope with a complex set of health, economic and other challenges," report committee chairman George Rutherford said in an Institute of Medicine news release.
"The number of people affected, the influx of returning personnel as the conflicts wind down and the potential long-term consequences of their service heighten the urgency of putting the appropriate knowledge and resources in place to make re-entry into post-deployment life as easy as possible," Rutherford said.
More than 2.2 million U.S. troops have served in Iraq and
Afghanistan, incurring more than 48,000 injuries and 6,600 deaths.
Many troops have readjusted well to life after deployment, but 44
percent have reported difficulties since returning home, according
A significant percentage have suffered traumatic brain injuries,
and many have shown symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,
depression and substance misuse or abuse, the report noted.
To better serve these troops, the Institute of Medicine, which
is charged with providing policy makers, health care professionals
and the public with independent, evidence-based advice, also
- The VA and defense departments need to complete work as soon as
possible on combined electronic medical records systems that will
make it easier for current and former service members to access
services and smooth the transition from one department to the
- Given the increase in the number of women in the military, the
Department of Defense needs to boost its efforts to eliminate
sexual harassment and assault. These problems, which affect a
significant percentage of current and former female service
members, can have long-term emotional and health consequences. One
solution: Add criteria to commanding officers' performance reviews
that assess how well they deal with sexual harassment and
- Department of Defense support programs should address the needs
of a full range of families, including unmarried partners, same-sex
couples, single parents and stepfamilies. Those programs typically
have focused on married, heterosexual couples and their
- As requested in 2010, the Veterans Health Administration should
predict the amount and types of resources needed to meet the needs
of veterans and their families in the next 30 years or more.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has more about
military and veterans' health care.
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