Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Study Finds Varying Rates of PTSD In and Out of VA Health System

Only about half of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan seek care from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and the VHA says that 22% of that cohort were diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other surveys of veterans, however, record much lower rates, noted Christine Vaughan, Ph.D., and colleagues from the RAND Corporation in the Psychiatric Services in Advance study, "Prevalence of Mental Health Problems Among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Who Have Received and Not Received VA Services.” The authors said that their data point to the need for connecting more veterans with mental health care services.

The study of a sample of 913 veterans living in New York state found that rates of probable PTSD (23%), probable depression (21%), or either diagnosis (30%) for those using the VHA system were about three times higher than for those not receiving VHA care. The comparable rates for those not using VHA services were 6%, 8%, and 11%, respectively. Those differential results suggest that rates for these psychiatric disorders among VHA patients don’t reveal the wider dimensions of veterans’ health problems. Still, the lower rates for nonusers should be cause for concern, the researchers noted.

“Given the size of the previously deployed force and the low rate of VHA enrollment, this proportion represents a significant number of veterans whose treatment needs are not being met by the VHA,” concluded Vaughan and colleagues. “Considerable improvement in the health status of veterans may be achievable if they can be connected with high-quality services.”

To read more about mental health care for veterans, see the Psychiatric News articles, "Military Mental Health Issues Will Be in Meeting Spotlight" and "Knowledge of Military Life Facilitates Vets' Mental Health Care."

(Image: Susan Montgomery/


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