Warfighter Mental Health: Helping Veterans Get the Care They Need

By Richard Meldrum

 

We are experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis among retired military personnel. Every day, 22 veterans of our armed forces commit suicide, and many more are locked in a destructive cycle of pharmaceutical, alcohol, and drug dependence, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

In the concluding installment of this four-part series on Warfighter Mental Health, I’ll share how monitoring warfighters’ objective and subjective performance data can help identify such problems and extend the continuum of care for veterans who have given everything to defend liberty and freedom.

Our country’s commitment to its veterans shouldn’t end once warfighters’ active-duty careers end. But all too often, they fall through the cracks because their struggles during overseas tours and daily service go undocumented or information is woefully incomplete. Utilizing a human performance solution like Smartabase can help overcome such issues and extend their clinical care to prevent mental health issues from going unaddressed once warfighters retire.

A human performance platform can also support POTFF and other initiatives from SOCOM and the Department of Defense (DOD) that seek to put warfighters’ mental wellbeing and family life on an equal footing with their physical health. While still in active service, “The Psychological Domain’s intent is to maximize the psychological performance, health, and resilience of SOF to meet operational demands now and in the future,” according to the SOCOM website. This commitment should extend into retirement, when veterans still require resources to maintain their emotional wellbeing and to repair any damage that has been done as a result of trauma received in the field.

 

EXPEDITING BENEFIT PROVISION AND CARE DELIVERY

Detailing recovery and performance data can support veterans’ claims for ongoing mental health resources and disability payments. To obtain treatment and compensation, a veteran must prove that they’re suffering from one or more clinically recognized conditions and demonstrate how their issues have manifested themselves over time. When relying on paperwork or multiple disparate platforms, the details can become hazy or lost, making it more difficult for the retired warfighter to prove that he or she has a legitimate claim to ongoing care and remuneration.

In contrast, a human performance platform collates and centralizes data across the warfighter’s career, enabling the Veterans Administration (VA), medical centers like Walter Reed, and other relevant parties to trace the progression of mental health conditions on both domestic and overseas duty. Such a system removes the opacity and ambiguity of the warfighter’s medical and performance history and enables psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and other clinicians to get fully up to speed so they can deliver the appropriate intervention at the precise time that it’s needed.

The veteran can also utilize a combination of objective and subjective data to prove their case so they can receive the retirement benefits and medical treatment reimbursements they so desperately need, without the months or even years of administrative hassle that are often a necessity without a system such as Smartabase.

If the human performance platform is also acting as an EMR as well as for managing performance and recovery data, then the digital trail of the warfighter’s complete service record becomes even easier to track, trace, access, and interpret for authorized personnel.

 

BREAKING DOWN SILO WALLS

Having a single, comprehensive, and complete record of each veteran’s mental and physical health throughout their active duty lifecycle also removes the issue of silos and communication barriers that can exist between different specialties.

For example, in a traditional setup, counselors and psychologists might have ready access to one data set while other professionals are looking at different kinds of information. This makes it difficult for clinicians to effectively quarterback treatment throughout the various stages of the veteran’s care continuum.

In contrast, a human performance solution provides a full and consistent picture of where the veteran has been, what has happened to them, and which interventions have already been made in an attempt to treat their mental health issues. This makes it easier to project and plan the next steps and to ensure delays between care cycles are shorter or eliminated altogether so treatment can be continuous and consistent once the warfighter transitions out of military service.

 

MAKING VETERAN DATA MORE ACCESSIBLE AND ELIMINATING GAPS IN THE CARE CYCLE

Another benefit a human performance solution provides for veterans’ mental health care is that it simplifies the information sharing process. Having access to notes of meetings between warfighters and support staff can further augment the level of support veterans receive once they retire by providing a holistic view of what happened while they were deployed. Records of previous clinical interventions – such as sessions with a counselor, chaplain, or psychologist attached to the warfighters’ unit – become readily available in the system.

This removes the need for the veteran to run the risk of exacerbating their mental wellbeing issue through the stressful process of locating years of documentation, which can be stored in multiple physical and digital places.

Often, the VA places ongoing information requests to a warfighter’s unit regarding their ongoing treatment during retirement. With a human performance platform in place, the data can be quickly pinpointed, collated, and exported without the need to search for hard copies in file cabinets or multiple digital directories. This expedited process benefits the veteran, administrators, and clinicians and speeds up the delivery of both care and benefits.

There is no single, magic bullet solution to the mental health struggles of our military veterans, as warfighters will continue to be put in combat situations that cause or contribute to wellness issues. But by making data accessible, collated, and visual, a human performance solution like Smartabase can help caregivers take significant and proactive steps in the right direction.

 

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