A new standard of care proposed by RAND researchers aims to redefine high-quality care for veterans with a traumatic brain injury or posttraumatic stress disorder. But it also could serve as a template for making health care more effective, more consistent, and more responsive for more patients.
Millions of post-9/11 U.S. military veterans experience life-changing invisible wounds, including posttraumatic stress disorder and chronic issues resulting from traumatic brain injuries. While effective treatments are available, many veterans lack access to high-quality care. And what high-quality care means, exactly, has been elusive.
Too few of the veterans who experience mental health issues get the help they need. Even fewer get the right care. Closing these gaps will require raising awareness about the barriers to care, and changing how the mental health care system is organized and delivers services.
Today, women represent approximately 15 percent of the U.S. military but research on their specific physical and psychological health issues has remained relatively sparse. A new book, Women at War, attempts to change that.
Researchers have made great progress capturing the consequences of coping with injuries sustained in the theater of war, but the emerging picture is shadowed in grays. A series of recent findings presents a bleak portrait of the cost of modern war to service members, their families, and their health care providers.
Chris Borland retired early out of concern for his long-term mental and emotional health as a result of football's well-documented link to traumatic brain injury. Hopefully, his bold move will lead to better prevention and treatment of brain trauma in football, but it is also an issue for young athletes, military veterans, and others.
The landscape for caregivers remains very difficult. Many still need additional training on how to best provide care for their loved ones, respite so they can care for themselves, and other forms of support.
A world without military caregivers would be a harsher one for all, particularly for those who have served. Military caregivers' sacrifices improve the lives of wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans, more of whom would suffer without them.
Kayla Williams describes her difficult transition from soldier to spouse, sergeant to civilian, team leader to caregiver. Two books by military wives opened her eyes to the challenges and rewards of marrying into the military, and the unique kind of service military families experience.
The needs of U.S. veterans will not end when the war does; they will just be beginning. Though over a lifetime veterans are more highly educated, employed, and paid than their civilian counterparts, the period of reintegration can be challenging.
In contrast to the numerous mental health resources available to members of the U.S. military, very few (if any) resources are available to help private contractors struggling with mental health problems. It is in the best interest of all involved to ensure that contractors receive the support and treatment they need.
Military families play a critical role in supporting U.S. servicemembers during deployment and afterwards. Equally vital but often less visible is the role played by those who care for the servicemembers who return with disabling injuries or illnesses and require long-term support beyond what the formal health care system provides.
Ret. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who was Army vice chief of staff, discusses why he disagrees with the idea that the post-traumatic stress soldiers suffer is a disorder with RAND president and CEO Michael Rich at RAND's Politics Aside event.