New Tool Helps ID Vets at Risk of ViolenceResearchers have developed a new screening tool to help clinicians identify which veterans may be at greater risk of violence.

The screening tool, called the Violence Screening and Assessment of Needs (VIO-SCAN), asks veterans about financial stability, combat experience, alcohol misuse, history of violence, or arrests, and probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) plus anger.

“When we hear about a veteran being violent, there is a knee-jerk reaction that it stems from PTSD. The VIO-SCAN shows that PTSD is relevant to screening risk but is only the tip of the iceberg.

“Non-PTSD factors need to be looked at, such as alcohol abuse or past criminal behavior, just like in civilians,” said study lead author Eric Elbogen, Ph.D.

On the VIO-SCAN, veterans give yes or no answers to questions such as, “Did you personally witness someone being seriously wounded or killed?” and “Have you ever been violent towards others or arrested for a crime?”

The answer to each question is scored as either zero or one. The score for each answer is combined to yield an overall score ranging from zero to five, with zero indicating generally lower risk and five indicating generally higher risk.

“We believe this screening tool will provide clinicians with a rapid, systematic method for identifying veterans at higher risk of violence.

“It can help prioritize those in need a full clinical workup, structure review of empirically supported risk factors, and develop plans collaboratively with veterans to reduce risk and increase successful reintegration in the community,” Elbogen said.

However, Elbogen cautions, the VIO-SCAN is not intended to be a comprehensive assessment of whether a veteran will or will not be violent.

Instead, it is a screen identifying whether a veteran may be at high risk and thereby require a full clinical workup to make a final risk judgment.

Source: University of North Carolina