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Abstract

Since October 2001, approximately 1.64 million U.S. troops have been deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) in Afghanistan and Iraq. Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of these deployments — many involving prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations — may be disproportionately high compared with the physical injuries of combat. Concerns have been most recently centered on two combat-related injuries in particular: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. With the increasing concern about the incidence of suicide and suicide attempts among returning veterans, concern about depression is also on the rise.

The study discussed in this monograph focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and traumatic brain injury, not only because of current high-level policy interest but also because, unlike the physical wounds of war, these conditions are often invisible to the eye, remaining invisible to other servicemembers, family members, and society in general. All three conditions affect mood, thoughts, and behavior; yet, these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged. The effect of traumatic brain injury is still poorly understood, leaving a large gap in knowledge related to how extensive the problem is or how to address it.

This monograph summarizes key findings and recommendations from a larger RAND document entitled Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery (Tanielian and Jaycox [Eds.], Santa Monica, Calif.: MG-720-CCF, 2008), a comprehensive study RAND conducted of the post-deployment health-related needs associated with the three conditions among OEF/OIF veterans; the health care system in place to meet those needs; gaps in the care system; and the costs of filling those gaps and providing quality health care to all those in need.

Readers desiring more details are referred to that document. Both monographs should be of interest to mental health treatment providers; health policymakers, particularly those charged with caring for our nation’s veterans; and U.S. service men and women, their families, and the concerned public. All the research products from this study are available at http://veterans.rand.org.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Study Purpose, Methods, and Key Findings

  • Chapter Three

    Conclusions and Recommendations

This work was funded by a grant from the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund, which is administered by the California Community Foundation. The study was conducted jointly under the auspices of the Center for Military Health Policy Research, a RAND Health center, and the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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