Columbia University Medical Center

Benefits of PTSD Treatment Going Unmeasured, Says Institute of Medicine Report

Department of Defense and Veterans Administration Lack Effective Systems to Evaluate PTSD Treatment

Sandro Galea

Sandro Galea

A report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) finds that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) do not measure the effectiveness of treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), calling into question millions of dollars spent to improve service members’ mental health. The report also found that neither agency has kept pace with the growing demand for PTSD treatment. Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, was chair of the IOM committee. “Mental health,” he said, “is among the most important factors behind successful re-entry after military service, and we don’t know if treatments are working.”

An estimated 5 percent of service members have been diagnosed with PTSD; for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, it is 8 percent. In 2012 the DOD and VA spent $294 million for PTSD care. If treatment demands continue to climb, the total cost for PTSD could exceed $500 million by 2017.

“In many respects,” said Dr. Galea, “our findings that neither the DOD nor the VA has a system that documents patients’ progress and uses standardized instruments to chart long-term treatment are not surprising. We are hopeful that the report will provide a blueprint for where we need to get to.”

Read the full story, and watch a video, on the Mailman School’s website.