The DoD should seek support from the private sector to help "establish a center of excellence for traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder," an independent panel recommends, after acknowledging that the military is failing to properly diagnose and treat two of the most common afflictions plaguing combat veterans.
The so-called "Independent Review Group" was convened by SecDef Robert M. Gates in February after Washington Post reporting uncovered troubling problems at Walter Reed Medical Center.
The panel, headed by two former secretaries of the Army, Togo D. West Jr. and John O. Marsh Jr., released a draft of their findings in a press conference Thursday at Walter Reed.
West, secretary of the Army and Veterans Affairs under Clinton, criticized "virtually incomprehensible" inattention to maintenance at Walter Reed and what he viewed as an "almost palpable disdain" for troop care.
The panel addressed a number of broad topics: the often difficult transition to outpatient care, problems with the physical disability evaluation process, failures in diagnoses of PTSD and brain trauma, lack of access to care for reserve troops, command and control problems at Walter Reed, deteriorating facilities, and inadequate support for family members.
Recommendations number in the dozens, with some of the most notable including:
The Commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center must urgently ensure every returning casualty is assigned a single primary physician care manager and case manager as their basic unit of support.
The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) should include functional and cognitive screening on the post-deployment health assessment and reassessment.
The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) should develop and issue a policy requiring ‘exposures to blasts’ be noted in a patient’s medical record.
The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) should develop comprehensive and universal clinical practice guidelines for blast injuries and traumatic brain injury with post traumatic stress disorder overlay, and disseminate Military Health Systemwide. This is an urgent requirement.
The Services should commence cognitive remediation for servicemembers experiencing any decreases in cognitive ability, from their baseline, occurring during their service.