The Institute of Medicine recommended July 13 that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan undergo annual screening for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and that federal agencies conduct more research to determine how well the various treatments are working.
Lemieux said the disorder goes back further. He said numerous servicemen who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars are still experiencing PTSD issues. While several veterans’ organizations are struggling with funding, Lemieux said the VFW hopes that agencies continue to help all servicemen and servicewomen struggling with the disorder.
Federal agencies have increasingly dedicated more resources to screen and treat soldiers, but considerable gaps remain, according to the Institute of Medicine, an independent group of experts that advises the federal government on medical issues. Its recommendations often make their way into laws drafted by Congress and policies implemented by federal agencies.
Of the 2.6 million service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, it's estimated that 13 percent to 20 percent have symptoms of PTSD.
Barely more than half of those diagnosed with PTSD actually get treatment, experts say, often because many soldiers worry it could jeopardize their careers. Also, when soldiers do get care, they're not tracked to determine which treatments are successful in the long term.
Nick Colgin, who served for 15 months in Afghanistan as a combat medic until April 2008, suffered a traumatic brain injury after a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into his Humvee. While he showed symptoms of PTSD upon his return to civilian life, he waited to get treatment until just last month.
"I just didn't want anyone to know I had that issue. I didn't want to know myself," said Colgin, 27, now living in New York City and working with the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
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Tribune reporter R.J. Wolcott and AP writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.