By Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 13, 2009 - Many health issues may arise after a National Guard member returns from a combat deployment. Some wounds are physical and are spotted easily. Others, such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, are not as obvious, and may take some time to develop. To help identify these problems, the Army has developed a post-deployment health reassessment, or PDHRA, to evaluate soldiers after they return home.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Army National Guard is calling attention to this program as it proactively screens redeploying Guard members for potential health issues.
"We want to look out after and safeguard every soldier in the Army National Guard," said Maj. Anthony McGinthy, the PDHRA program manager for the Army National Guard surgeon's office.
The program gives Guard members a chance to identify problems three to six months after deployment. This window gives them a chance to settle into life and work, and to evaluate their health over that period. If combat-connected health problems arise, soldiers can report it during their PDHRA to become eligible for care.
"This is a way for soldiers to seek care that they need, whether that be behavioral, mental or physical" after deployment, McGinthy said.
The program consists of three parts. First, Guard members see the "Battlemind II" training video, which shows common readjustment issues for veterans. Then they complete a questionnaire detailing their health. After that, they sit down with a trained health care provider for a 45-minute, one-on-one conversation. During that talk, qualified medical professionals ask questions about contact information, deployment location and health history.
Soldiers also are informed of the types of assistance for which they are eligible, which may include health care at a Veterans Affairs hospital, and they get an opportunity to request assistance. The health care provider will then refer the soldier for follow-up care, treatment or evaluation if necessary.
"One of the things we do during the screening is advise them of their resources and link them to further care when needed," McGinthy said, noting that about 50 percent of soldiers who complete the PDHRA receive follow-on care.
This proactive approach means that even Guard members returning from their second or third tour will not find themselves exempt, McGinthy said. "Every time they come back from a deployment, they will be screened," he said.
(Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum serves at the National Guard Bureau.)