A team of researchers warns the Veterans Administration to prepare for an unprecedented incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq veterans.
In “A Dynamic Model for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Among U.S. Troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Michael P. Atkinson of the Naval Postgraduate School and Adam Guetz and Lawrence M. Wein of Stanford University predict as many as 35 percent of returning soldiers could have PTSD.
Authors hypothesize the tempo of deployment cycles in the Iraq War, which is higher than for any war since World War II, influences PTSD among service members.
To assure ample mental health resources to care for returning troops, the authors argue that it is important for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to forecast the timing and number of new PTSD cases over the coming years, which is complicated by the fact that many cases have delayed onset.
The authors combine a dynamic mathematical operations research model with deployment data and PTSD data from the Iraq War, and estimate that the PTSD rate among Iraq War veterans will be approximately 35 percent, which is roughly double the rate from the raw survey data.
This doubling is due to the time lag between the PTSD-generating event and the onset of symptoms and to the fact that many surveyed troops will do subsequent deployments.
Consequently, the authors write, the VA system, which is already experiencing significant delays for PTSD treatment provision, urgently needs to ramp up its mental health resource capacity.
The article is found in the current issue of the journal Management Science.