Thursday, July 16, 2009

New results on VA diagnoses of OEF/OIF mental health disorders

The Times reports on a forthcoming article in the Am J Pub Health on VA diagnoses of mental health ailments among veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. Although the statistic is conditional on having entered the VA for treatment, the central finding, that 37 percent of that group received diagnoses of mental health conditions, is eye-opening.

Via a telephone survey of about 2,000 OEF/OIF vets, RAND has estimated the percentage across all veterans whether they seek VA care or not to be a little lower, 30.7 percent. I calculated that as one minus the share with no condition, which is 69.7 percent, in Table 4.4 of The Invisible Wounds of War.

That more troops are surviving their injuries is a good thing. But their mental health injuries from the trauma of combat exposure will likely only increase in prevalence as a result. Still, a positive light in which to potentially view at least the VA statistic is that at least this 30-40 percent has been diagnosed and is hopefully receiving care. As with mental health in the civilian sector, mental health concerns among the military carry the pernicious effects of stigma, which make them that much worse than physical injuries.