Battling PTSD and TBI

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Army Photo / Spc. Alex Kirk Amen

Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division changing watch shifts at dawn Aug. 30 in Mulakala, in Afghanistan’s Ghazi province.

Somehow seems fitting on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 to note that the Pentagon has just announced it is funneling $100 million into a pair of new efforts to try to find out how better to fight the scourge of post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury triggered by the post-9/11 wars.

“PTSD and mTBI are two of the most devastating injuries suffered by our warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Dr. Terry Rauch, Program Director for Defense Medical Research and Development within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Department of Defense. “Identifying better treatments for those impacted is critical.”

The “consortia,” as the Pentagon calls the two initiatives, are the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP) and the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC). They will be managed jointly by the Department of Veterans Affairs and, on behalf of the Defense Department, by what the Pentagon calls its Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (military mathematical truth: the more overhead dedicated to an effort, the less oversight it gets).

— For PTSD, CAP “will study potential indicators of the trauma, as well as prevention strategies, possible interventions, and improved treatments. Biomarker-based researched will be a key factor for CAP’s studies,” the CDMRP says. PTSD afflicts some troops after combat tours, and causes anxiety, depression and other mental ills.

— For mTBI, CENC will try “to establish an understanding of the aftereffects of an mTBI. Potential comorbidities also will be studied; that is, conditions that are associated with and worsen because of a neurotrauma,” the CDMRP says. TBI is a physical wound – a concussion — usually suffered by troops near the shock waves of an improvised explosive device. It can bruise the brain and cause mood changes, fatigue, and sleeping more – or less – than usual.

The two conditions are often seen in the same person, exponentially compounding their impacts.

The Frederick News-Post wrote about the consortia’s creation over the weekend because the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs is (are?) run from Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Md. (to see what the CDMRP does, click here).

It quoted Fort Detrick’s director of the Combat Casualty Care Research Program (overhead alert!) on this latest tranche of TBI funding, noting that it isn’t the first try the Pentagon has made to ease troops’ TBI wounds:

The Defense Department has spent more than $700 million on about 500 studies of TBI since 2007…

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These are the consequences of a decade of war. Must not be swept under the carpet. A portion of profits from this novel will benefit veteran support groups.


It's a shame that the VA has decided not to cover the (high) cost of mental health service dogs for vets suffering PTSD and other problems. They want to wait for proof that these dogs actually help, but I bet every vet who has one would tell them they absolutely do.


This gives researchers a really bad name, and with good reason. Nearly a billion dollars spent since 2007 and what do we have to show for it? Alarmingly high and rising suicide rates. Newsflash! New research results tell us that those who try to kill themselves are ... in emotional pain. Spare me. The incompetence of DoD, VA and Congress is simply shocking. DCoE, a joint DoD and VA agency funded and empowered by Congress did an exhaustive study of reintegration programs. They made a series of recommendations, highlighted best practices. Nearly nobody in these agencies knows about it and those that are informed do not give it the time of day. Solution: appropriate more monies, do more research, isolate the biological causes. This will do what exactly? The new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says we must do something but we must know what works. Same refrain from foundations and corporations. The answers and directions are there but no one reads the DCoE study. Their own study. The one everyone's been clamoring for. Shameful really.


This truly boggles the mind. When you add the monies accepted by DoD from the Fisher brothers for a new series of showpiece centers around the country, the amount actually tops one billion dollars spent since 2007. And what have we got to show for it? Some of the highest suicide rates in history. The solutions are always cheaper, simpler and more evident than the studies. Psychological screenings at regular health check-ups. Evidence-based psychosocial support and educational programs like the Coming Home Project. Therapists embedded in units like the Guard does. Some required counseling-like activity such as described by the San Diego psychologist in todays blog. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and TBI came out with an exhaustive study of reintegration programming. Their recommendations have been totally ignored. No one even knows about them in DoD and VA, even though these are the agencies the DCoE brings together. And legislators have been screaming for years for such as study and they ignore it even when it's brought to their attention. This incompetence is scandalous. We need to think smart and spend money smartly. 


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