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New Study: Two-Thirds of Veterans With PTSD Not Being Treated

I've been writing for several years about how far too many of our returning veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not being treated. A new study of veterans in New York State by the Rand Corporation is further evidence of this ongoing problem.

The study found that only about a third of the veterans who appeared in need of health care for their PTSD or other mental health issues had actually received it in the previous year, meaning two-thirds of veterans in that area are going untreated.

Asked why they are not seeking help, many of the 913 veterans surveyed, all of whom had been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan at least once, mentioned the stigma of PTSD, which has persisted despite efforts by all branches of the military to move past it. Some veterans in the survey felt that seeking treatment could have a negative impact on their careers and some also raised concerns about the side effects of psychiatric medications given to treat PTSD.


This latest study, whose findings are similar to a 2008 study by Rand that polled veterans nationwide, was commissioned by the New York State Health Foundation, a private nonprofit group that gives grants to health care organizations. Jim Knickman, president and chief executive of the foundation, told New York Times blogger James Dao that a substantial number of veterans reported that they do not receive any care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. In some cases, that was because the nearest VA health center was too far away, but in others, Dao reports, it was because the veterans said they did not like the atmosphere of the VA or did not think the care was adequate.

And it's not just an issue of veterans not getting treated. There's also the problem of not completing the treatment once they start it. A study last year published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that even many veterans who were being treated for their PTSD through the VA were not receiving "enough" treatment for it to be effective. The study noted that more than 230,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans sought treatment for PTSD at VA healthcare facilities between 2002 and 2008. Out of these individuals, 50,000 received new diagnoses that resulted in fewer than 10 percent receiving the full treatment program.