Five Ideas to Transform a Soldier's Life

A healthcare strategist proposes five policy changes to benefit U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Veterans Day, November 11, 2009, is the time to do more for soldiers returning from combat.

Washington, D.C.---Veterans Day is Wednesday, November 11, 2009. Since 9/11, more than 1.6 million men and women have served in the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"War changes people," stated Noe Foster, CEO of theStrategist. "Research confirms that the battle does not end when combat soldiers return home. For many the battle intensifies."
A large number struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD) Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), substance abuse, violent rages, and strained family relationships.

Combat veterans need more than lip service and parades.

Noe Foster, outlines five policy changes that promise to transform the life of a soldier and help him or her win their personal battle at home:
1. Presume Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will occur. One in three soldiers will return from war with PTSD. The probability increases dramatically with multiple deployment. Treat all combat soldiers in theatre and at home as if they were already experiencing PTSD. Lift the 5-year diagnosis time period attached to PTSD disability benefits. Screening for PTSD is flawed since symptoms can be masked for many years. Like other mental health conditions, PTSD carries a debilitating stigma that hampers early intervention.

2. Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) from occurring. One in five combat veteran returns home with a TBI. Repeated deployments increase the likelihood of an occurrence exponentially.The cause of a war-related TBI is most often from exposure of a detonated IED or from a motor vehicle accident. Improved safety devices like head restraints need to be explored.

3. Prepare job-ready Guard and Reserve soldiers. Help them translate their experience in a combat zone to skills local job markets want. National Guard and Reserve troops make up 48% of the armed forces in the war zones. Many while down range have received "Dear John," letters from employers whose businesses have collapsed and closed.

4. Auto-enroll Guard and Reserve soldiers who have been deployed to war into the Veteran Affairs health and benefit system. Only 20% of veterans now use the VA healthcare system. Many fail to register for these benefits.

5. Search for and identify children of active duty Guard and Reserve troops. Provide school-based mental health wellness programs to help them cope with a parent's deployment and return. While in Iraq, Afghanistan, or at home, soldiers worry for the health and happiness of their children. Studies reveal that children of deployed troops experience significantly more stress than their friends.

Noe Foster is the CEO and founder of the Strategist, a healthcare advisory firm.