VA Manages to Treat Only Half of PTSD Sufferers

Report says military unprepared for coming 'wave' of mental illness
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2014 3:50 PM CDT
VA Manages to Treat Only Half of PTSD Sufferers
John David Shackelford visits the grave of his brother Spc. Jaymes Nickolaus Shackelford. The Army veteran served two tours of duty in Iraq before returning home with PTSD and taking his own life.   (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Mike Brown)

The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs are ill-prepared to handle a looming PTSD epidemic—or even the cases they already have, according to a 300-page study released today. Experts from the Institute of Medicine, under direction from Congress, found that just 53% of veterans whose primary diagnosis was PTSD got the recommended eight sessions of psychotherapy over a 14-week stretch last year, well short of the VA's 67% target, the AP reports.

The Pentagon isn't doing much better; its programs for treating active-duty PTSD sufferers are "ad hoc, incremental, and crisis-driven, with little planning devoted to the development of a long-range approach," the report concluded. What's more, neither department is effectively measuring whether their PTSD programs—which cost $3.3 billion in 2012—are actually working. "We found it surprising that no PTSD outcome measures are used consistently," one epidemiologist tells NBC News. All of which is troubling, because experts expect the steady stream of diagnoses to continue. "We are at the cusp of a wave of PTSD," the committee's chair tells USA Today. (More PTSD stories.)

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