Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) spend $3.3 billion a year on psychiatric medications and therapy for US veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) without any proof that their efforts are “successfully treating” our military.

While the VA spent billions in taxpayer money not treating PTSD, “nearly 80 percent of its senior executives got performance bonuses last year.”

Gina Farrisee, assistant secretary of human resources for the VA spoke to Congress, stating that “more than 350 VA executives were paid nearly $3 million in bonuses last year. The VA needs to pay bonuses to keep executives who are paid up to $181,000 per year.”

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report stating that psychiatrists and psychicians at the VA and DoD do not communicate with each other when dealing with patients diagnosed with PTSD.

Outlined in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the DoD and VA are tasked with providing “a spectrum of programs and services to screen for, diagnose, treat for, and rehabilitate service members and veterans who have or are at risk for PTSD.”

The NDAA empowered IOM to “assess those PTSD programs and services in two phases. The Phase 1 study, Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Military and Veteran Populations: Initial Assessment, focused on data gathering. Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Military and Veteran Populations Final Assessment is the report of the second phase of the study.”

Phase 1 of this study looks at the “psychiatric consequences” of soldiers who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sandro Galea, chair of the IOM committee who conducted the study commented: “We are hoping this serves as a clarion call and blueprint to guide where we should be.”

Galea said: “We found it surprising that no PTSD outcome measures are used consistently to know if these treatments are working or not. They could be highly effective, but we won’t know unless outcomes are tracked and evaluated.”

In Phase 1 of the study, the IOM found:

  • The Defense Department’s PTSD programs “appear to be local, ad hoc, incremental, and crisis-driven, with little planning devoted to the development of a long-range approach”
  • Leaders within DoD and the service branches “at all levels” are not consistently held accountable for failing to implement programs meant to effectively manage PTSD in troops
  • It’s unclear whether VA hospital administrators around the country follow the agency’s minimum-care requirements for veterans with PTSD

Sloan Gibson, acting secretary of the VA, stated in a new report that “tens of thousands more veterans than previously reported are forced to wait at least a month for medical appointments at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, according to an updated audit of 731 VA medical facilities.”

Doctored numbers from “new figures” in this report claim that “the wait times actually experienced at most VA facilities were shorter than those on waiting lists for pending appointments.”

However, these figures do not take into account “new patients at the Atlanta VA hospital waited about an average of 44 days for an appointment in April” and the average waiting time was 66 days.

The new math also does not include “patients who walk into a clinic and get immediate or quick treatment. They also don’t reflect rescheduled appointments or those that are moved up because of openings due to cancellations.”

Indeed, 10% of veterans waited an estimated 30 days for an initial appointment and 4% of veterans “were forced to endure long waits.”
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