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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Combat Clips: A Selection of OEF/OIF Veteran Statistics, Feb/Mar 2010

Recent statistical data found in news reports regarding today's veterans. First up from HealthDay News:

Between 2002 and 2008, nearly 50,000 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars received diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder. But fewer than 10 percent of those completed the recommended treatment of 10 to 12 weekly sessions within four months; the number only grew to fewer than 30 percent over a year, the study authors found.

Some types of veterans are less likely to receive recommended care: males, veterans who are under the age of 25, those who live in rural areas and those who got their diagnoses at primary-care clinics and needed referrals to mental health programs, according to the report published online Feb. 9 in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Dr. Karen Seal, the study's head researcher and a practitioner at the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center, said in a news release that most veterans did attend at least one mental-health appointment. But problems -- including those at the system and personal levels -- led to lack of follow-up.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Gregg Zoroya, USA Today:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has no way of determining long-range health care costs for the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a federal study on the wars' impact released Wednesday shows.

Conducted by the federal Institute of Medicine, the study says costs for the nearly 2 million veterans of the two wars will expand over the next 30 years before tapering off.

The VA's budget is almost $113 billion and has almost doubled since 2003.

"VA does not have the personnel, the funding or the mandate from Congress to produce broad forecasts," the study says, adding that "the human burdens of war extend far beyond the period of active conflict."

These projections are crucial for anticipating how much money and how many services the government must set aside for helping Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the report says.

Mary Eberstadt, Washington Post:

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America reported that 30,000 single mothers had served in those two war zones as of March 2009. In other words, and with the tacit consent of our civilian leaders, the U.S. military routinely recruits mothers of babies and young children, or soon-to-be-mothers -- and often puts them in harm's way more or less as it does every other soldier. ...

Lt. Col. Mona Ternus, a George Mason University professor, recently analyzed responses by 77 female soldiers returning home from deployment to children ages 10 to 18. She concluded that "A longer deployment leads to increased risk behaviors among adolescent children such as non-accidental physical injury, physical fights, incidents involving weapons, cigarette smoking/chewing tobacco, alcohol, illegal drug use, self mutilation, drop in school grades and attempted suicide."

Last month, researchers at the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute found that adolescents with deployed parents had higher stress levels than others and that "a strong family" was one factor ameliorating that stress -- one that might not obtain so well in single-mother households when mom is away at war. In December, a Rand Corp. study found that across all ages, children of the deployed are more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems and that those problems increase with the amount of time deployed.

Kim Hart, The Hill:

Nearly 185,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"That's similar to the number of people actually deployed today in those countries," said Pamela Passman, corporate vice president of Microsoft Global Corporate Affairs.

And unemployment among veterans is 20 percent higher than for non-veterans, she said.

"While they're highly trained in certain areas and have fabulous work ethics, they might be lacking the kinds of credentials needed in today's corporate world," she said.

A bit more on this from Jack Broom, Seattle Times:

Joblessness among new military veterans is soaring. Earlier this month, the U.S. Labor Department reported an unemployment level of 21.1 percent among young veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan — well above the national jobless rate of 16.6 percent for nonveterans in the same age group, 18 to 24.

Dan Elliot, AP:

The military is faced with a rising number of traumatic brain injuries because improved combat protection and medical care have allowed more service members to survive explosions and other traumas that would have been fatal in previous wars.

The Defense Department said more than 134,000 service men and women suffered traumatic brain injuries from 2003 through 2009.

Mark Sommerhauser, St. Cloud Times:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have proposed letting Veterans Affairs medical centers participate in a federal program that forgives college loans for doctors, dentists and other health professionals who agree to work in underserved areas.

Klobuchar said Tuesday her bill would help VA hospitals such as the one in St. Cloud recruit health workers who are in short supply everywhere. Rural hospitals and clinics especially struggle to secure qualified employees, Klobuchar said.

And with 9,000 veterans coming home each month from Iraq and Afghanistan, Klobuchar said the demand for veterans' care will increase.

"They're going to need care, no matter where they're located," Klobuchar said Tuesday.

The VA has experienced unprecedented growth in its patient load in recent years, according to a Klobuchar news release. The number of patients treated by the VA increased by 29 percent from 2001 to 2008, from 4.2 million to nearly 5.5 million.

Evan Jensen, Estecada News:

About 52 million people in the U.S. ages 18 to 54 suffer from PTSD during the course of a given year, according to the NIMH. About 30 percent of the men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD. An estimated 1 million war veterans developed PTSD in Vietnam, and PTSD has been identified among veterans of more recent wars with some estimates as high as 8 percent.

Kimberly Hefling, AP:

Without a system overhaul, the VA estimates that by 2015, that backlog of disability claims will increase tenfold to about 2.6 million. Those with service-connected injuries already wait an average of about five months to have a claim processed, and there are frequent complaints about lost paperwork and inaccuracy.

Under the current system, people in only one location at a time can look at a veteran's claim, which requires that boxes of paperwork be shipped across the United States. Under the new system, the goal is an electronic file that people in several locations can view simultaneously.

Robert Graham, a claims processor who works for the VA in Winston-Salem, N.C., and was brought in for the review, said it typically takes him six to 12 hours to do his part in processing claims from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. That time would be cut 70 percent under a new system, he said.

Baltimore is one of four pilot sites. The others are in Providence, R.I., Little Rock, Ark., and Pittsburgh.

The complexity and volume of cases from veterans of the current conflicts have added to the backlog. It's expected to grow primarily because Shinseki in October made it easier for potentially 200,000 sick Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide to receive service-connected compensation. Under his watch, the VA has also said it will take a second look at the rejected claims of sick Gulf War veterans.

Regarding British forces and PTSD, Christopher Hope, Telegraph:

The news came as the Prince of Wales launched an appeal by the charity Combat Stress to raise £30million to pay for better mental health services for veterans across the UK.

So far 180,000 British troops have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. General Dannatt, the former Chief of the General Staff, said that as many as 8,500 former servicemen of these will develop mental health problems.

General Dannatt said: “We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of psychological problems”, largely because the psychological scars from the intense battles will only become apparent years after the servicemen and women have left the forces.

Chai Patel, the chairman of the appeal who has pledged £1million towards it, suggested the figure could be as high as 50,000 veterans who showed some sort of mental health problem relating to their time in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

Figures published today by the charity show the numbers of veterans being treated by the charity has jumped by two thirds in just five years, with more than 1,177 former servicemen approaching the charity in the past year alone.

This figure could rise sharply among the 17,000 servicemen who leave the forces every year because of the intense fighting by overstretched troops in recent years in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan.

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