Now lawmakers, advocates have raised questions about whether returning troops would get the proper treatment necessary. Their fears see to increase as more veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, now mental health treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It has been reported that so far, 63,767 veterans have gone to VA offices with possible mental health problems, and 29,041 have received an initial diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Though the officials at VA claim that they do have enough staff members and resources for treatment, critics say that the VA is struggling to provide adequate support and help. The VA on the other hand had submitted a report to the Congress in February in which they stated that there was a considerable drop, of nearly 20% in the number of visits with PTSD specialists per veteran from 1995 to 2005. The reports stated that, "We are concerned that this reflects a decrease in capacity at a time when VA needs to reach out" to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan."
Antonette Zeiss, the deputy chief of mental health services in the department, while stating that the February report is being updated to reflect improvements, said, "We have resources to provide very good care to veterans across the country." Ms. Zeiss further stated that the new veterans represent a small portion of the VA's health-care caseload, and explained that the current figures have indicated that the total number of veterans from all eras treated by the VA for PTSD had jumped 30% from 2003 to 2005. She also said that the VA has expanded its programme with an aim of helping the veterans who were returning with the disorder. The officials at VA explained to have recently completed one of the largest clinical trial ever of individual psychotherapy for PTSD in female veterans.
The advocates for the veterans have on the other hand stated that in some areas say they receive complaints about the shortage of staff and long waits to get care. Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, had stated the case of an Iraq veteran who gets 30 minutes of treatment a month for PTSD, explaining that, "That's not enough."
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said, "By and large, what we're hearing is that the services aren't there like they should be. While Ira Katz, a mental health official for the VA, stating that their services include one-on-one counselling, group therapy and medication, said that there is no single line of treatment for PTSD as the cases are usually very different.
Meanwhile they have been conflicting reports from various clinics, Laurie Harkness said the community-based VA mental health clinic she directs in West Haven, Conn, has no waiting period, "We get people in right away." Larry Scott, editor of http://vawatchdog.org , said mental health clinics in Portland, Ore, are just not up to the mark with fewer staff members to treat a growing number of veterans.
Shad Meshad, the president of the National Veterans Foundation, has said that the latest troops returning are now facing a more serious trauma. He said that they are "just young bombs like we were 30 or 35 years ago," but now "you have PTSD layered by multiple tours of duty."