WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 24, 2014) – The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs can collaborate to find metrics in mental health to better serve veterans, according to an Army health officer.
“Psychological health and resiliency are two distinct things,” Col. David Benedek said at a health summit, Friday, in Falls Church, Virginia.
Benedek, the associate director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, Uniformed Services University’s Department of Psychiatry, was a panelist at an event hosted by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.
“We got some work to do,” he said.
There are tools in preparing for war, and there are tools needed for preparing for life after the military, Benedek said.
The inter-agency collaboration is needed because once a member leaves the DOD, “that’s when the VA takes over,” he said.
The DOD and VA can look at metrics for veterans on “doing well in life after military life.”
Areas of examination include what VA benefits, such as for education, health and in other areas, a veteran is using, and whether the veteran is helping his or her family utilize benefits.
“These are I think metrics of resilience because how one functions in one’s role as a family member and a parent, that’s the stuff of readiness for the mission after the next conflict,” Benedek said.
“The No. 1 most important thing to prevent or portending to a good prognosis in mental health is social connectivity, being able to connect to other people, so measuring where you are at on that makes good sense to me,” he said.
The VA and the DOD are increasingly working together in research in the areas of mental health and treatment for illnesses sustained during one’s service, he said.
“We can still work on better treatments for the illnesses that make up psych health disorders, mental health disorders,” said Benedek. “We need new treatments for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). We know combat-related PTSD is different than motor vehicle and single-incident sexual assault PTSD.”
Screening people is “helpful,” he said, in finding mental health illnesses.
“We have mechanisms for taking a look at people coming back from war, from conflict, and determining whether or not they meet the criteria for illnesses for which we have treatment,” he said.
“There is evidence-based treatment for PTSD; there is evidence-based treatment and we’ve done a good job I think of helping clinicians treat the mental health disorders,” he continued.
There is always room for advancements, he noted.
The Army takes “inventory” each year on how it’s doing to help point “us in the direction of things that we can work on,” he said.