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American Legion seeking vets' input for PTSD, TBI survey

Feb. 19, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A Marine catches his breath after his armored vehicle was hit by an IED in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010.
A Marine catches his breath after his armored vehicle was hit by an IED in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010. (Thomas Brown/Staff)
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The American Legion is seeking veterans with traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder to participate in an online survey to learn more about their injuries, treatment and care.

Through Feb. 28, the Legion is soliciting veterans from all eras to take part in its survey to better understand what treatments they have sought at the Veterans Health Administration, Defense Department or in the private sector and the effects of those treatments on their recovery.

The assessment is a follow-up to the American Legion’s 2013 report, “The War Within,” a study on traumatic brain injuries that concluded the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments were not doing enough to provide varying treatments for the conditions.

“We’re asking veterans to participate so the American Legion can make more informed recommendations to VA and DoD on how to improve their health care for these conditions,” said Daniel Dellinger, the Legion’s national commander.

The survey asks for deployment history, details about injuries, information on access to care and treatment — including alternative therapies such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, acupuncture and yoga and meditation — and self-assessments of progress.

Legion deputy director for health care Jacob Gadd said the intent is to evaluate how effective treatment is and whether veterans are benefiting from complementary and alternative therapy.

“We measure how fast the veterans get into care, but what we really should be measuring is are the treatments working and are our veterans and caregivers satisfied?” Gadd said.

According to the Congressional Research Service, 131,341 troops were diagnosed with PTSD from 2001 to 2012 and more than 250,000 service members received a head injury, ranging from concussion to severe or penetrating wounds.

VA estimates that 31 percent of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD; no major studies were conducted on Korea and World War II veterans, although some have sought treatment at VA for the disorder.

More than 2,300 veterans have completed the Legion survey since it became available Feb. 1. Jeff Greenberg, senior director of research at Data Recognition Corporation, Washington, D.C., said the format has attracted a large number of participants from the post-9/11 era, but many Vietnam veterans also have taken part, especially those diagnosed with PTSD.

The assessment is anonymous, asking basic personal details such as date of birth, branch of service, gender and deployment details. It does not request respondents to provide proof of service, which Greenberg acknowledged is one of its limitations.

“We haven’t noticed anything that glaringly suggests we are getting false data. ... Mostly, we are getting data from individuals who are veterans and have veterans’ experiences,” Greenberg said.

The findings will be tabulated and shared with Congress, federal health agencies and the executive branch, according to Gadd.

“Our goal is to spotlight what treatments have reduced symptoms of TBI and PTSD, and if there has been some derived benefit, ... that DoD and VA look at that type of treatment and put it through the research to have that treatment be standardized and available at every site,” Gadd said.

“It doesn’t appear that anyone has asked these questions [before],” Greenberg added. “It’s important, because unless you have a baseline of what people are receiving in terms of treatment, it’s hard to start to answer questions about quality of care.”

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