In the United States, we have learned so much from both our previous experiences of war, and from veterans of the Vietnam War. As a society we have learned not to confuse “the war with the warrior” (Friedman, 2005); we now recognize post-traumatic stress disorder as a diagnosable disorder; and we have developed new treatments, changing the landscape of hope. However we must prepare for some unprecedented challenges presented by our newest veterans.
Many gaps exist in our understanding of the full psychosocial impact of combat. The recent U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have involved the first sustained ground combat since the Vietnam War. Recent data from the VA reveals that approximately 244,054 veterans of active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have become eligible for VA benefits and that 20 percent of these new veterans have received health care at a VA facility since returning home.
Prior research has demonstrated that mental health disorders are a leading source of occupational morbidity and reason for transition out of military service for active-duty military personnel, with as many as one third of enlisted soldiers having difficulty in their first term of enlistment, most often due to mental, psychosocial, and behavioral problems. There is a need to improve the process by which the earliest possible identification and treatment of post traumatic readjustment problems is initiated and sustained.
We envision a system in which individuals, families, employers, academics, the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, the Vet Center and other communities and service agencies work cooperatively toward the development of an easily accessible and knowledgeable system of care for veterans, returning soldiers, and their families. Through the development an interagency task force, the State of Rhode Island will make strategic investments for individuals, families and communities most affected by the consequences of combat.
Principles for Success
Veterans, soldiers, and/or families needing treatment and/or other interventions are identified early, effectively
Veterans, soldiers, and/or families receive effective assessments and are referred to appropriate levels of care.
A continuum of services, with supply corresponding to appropriate demand, is available and well managed.
Assessment, treatment and support services are timely, appropriate and effectively delivered.