Behavioral Health Task Force reports 'no systemic issues'
April 1, 2013
WASHINGTON, (April 1, 2013) -- There are no systemic issues of Soldiers being disadvantaged in our healthcare process. This was the headline given by Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho as she discussed findings from the Army's Task Force on Behavioral Health to a group of reporters assembled in March at the Pentagon for a teleconference to discuss the report and the Corrective Action Plan.
The report is the outcome of months of administrative review of 154,000 records regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, diagnosis. The task force analyzed behavioral health procedures and policy and, in addition, the adjudication of disability claims.
The review supported a diagnostic revalidation rate of 88% with regard to PTSD. "This revalidation rate is extraordinary when compared to diagnostic revalidation rates from the civilian sector," said Horoho. "We now have a comprehensive review of how we provide care for Soldiers with behavioral health needs. This reinforces our continuum of care concept."
The Army's review process was conducted by highly-qualified experts, and the majority of recommendations detailed in the Corrective Action Plan, also known as CAP, have already been implemented.
Steps to improve behavioral health diagnoses include efforts to standardize services, coordinate behavioral health delivery, and improve diagnoses processes and procedures. The Army Medical Command is coordinating efforts to prepare and send consent letters to 10,000 Soldiers identified as potentially having a behavioral health diagnosis downgraded or removed during the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, or IDES, process.
The review succeeded in moving the diagnosis of behavioral health and its associated diagnosis out of the shadows, becoming part of the national narrative. A major improvement in the diagnosis process is the reduction in wait time for Medical Evaluation Board, or MEB, processing days, even though the number of Soldiers in the IDES has increased.
There is also enhanced coordination with the Veteran's Administration easing Soldiers' transition from military to VA healthcare. "Army Medicine has taken the actions necessary to ensure that behavioral health diagnosis and associated treatments have been standardized across our healthcare delivery platforms," said Horoho.
Additional measures reinforce the Army's commitment to providing quality care, especially behavioral health care to Soldiers, families, and retirees. This includes establishing a rigorous MEB process and discontinuing forensic evaluations for MEBs. Another key initiative is the implementation of Embedded Behavioral Health, or EBH, in units to better locate providers to places such as stationed or deployed environments where Soldiers have the most need.
"We want to get behavioral healthcare out of brick and mortar and into the Soldier's life-space," said Horoho. "Soldiers are then more likely to seek behavioral health and other wellness care."
On March 5, the secretary of the Army signed implementation guidance for the CAP, which contains the task force's recommendations. The CAP will implement both short-term solutions, and long-term, systemic changes that will make care and treatment of Soldiers and family members more effective.
"Army Medicine is a learning organization and as such we are continually changing the landscape to improve the outcomes for our patients," said Horoho. "The good news is 80% of those diagnosed with PTSD return to duty verifying what we in medicine have always known, PTSD is a treatable condition."