About 300,000 service members who returned home from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or depression, according to an unprecedented national study released today by the RAND Corp.
Another 320,000 service members reported suffering a traumatic brain injury during deployment. However, most of the service members who reported the injuries, of which many were mild concussions, have not sought treatment or are not aware of the severity of their injuries.
Terri Tanielian, the project’s co-leader and a researcher at RAND told reporters at a news teleconference that this is “a major health crisis” for service members, both men and women.
Miss Tanielian said the study reveals the need for more service providers who know how to deliver appropriate care, including longterm future medical needs, for service members returning from war. Service members should not be limited to seeking care at Defense Department or Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities, she said. They should be able to get care within the private sector as well, since some don’t live close enough to veterans’ hospitals.
Lisa Jaycox, RAND senior behavioral scientist and co-leader of the study, said it is difficult to estimate how many mental health care service providers will be needed to fulfill the demand because “we already have a shortage of mental health professionals in the U.S. health care system.”
“This is not a problem unique to the DOD or VA but many individuals who are seeking mental health care in the U.S. have difficulty finding a provider,” she said.
The Defense Department covers the medical needs of active duty and reservists. Veterans Affairs is responsible for the care of veterans who are no longer active.
The research included a survey of 1,965 current and former service members from all military branches across the country. It is the first to comprehensively assess the current needs of returned service members from all branches of the military.