More than 2.2 million U.S. troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest sustained U.S. military engagements since the Vietnam War. For Americans, the toll includes more than 6,600 lives lost, 48,000 injured, and an estimated 44% of veterans who continue to suffer from more than one health condition, including traumatic brain injuries and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance abuse.
Concerns about the difficulties that veterans face in adjusting to life after war led Congress to require the Department of Defense and the Veteran’s Administration to conduct a study of the health needs of returning soldiers. The four-year study was conducted in two parts by a special committee of the Institute of Medicine, whose second report was just released.
While the first report laid the groundwork, the second report looked at original data to try to understand the key barriers facing veterans in reintegrating into their communities, explains Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, Gelman Professor and Mailman School chair of the Department of Epidemiology. Dr. Galea was a co-author of both reports, which were led by George W. Rutherford, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco.
Among the findings of the new report:
“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,” said Dr. Rutherford.
Among the Committee’s recommendations to improve readjustment to post-deployment life:
“With another 3,400 service members returning over the next 12 months, we felt a sense of urgency in our work to understand the scope of the readjustment challenges,” said Dr. Galea, an expert on PTSD who also serves as president of the Society for Epidemiologic Research. “The challenges are formidable, but we believe our second phase IOM report will help guide the VA and Department of Defense in identifying both the needs and some important directions for addressing them.”
Read the Executive Summary.
March 28, 2013