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New Report From N.H. Commission On PTSD And TBI Shows Efforts Are Working

Paul W Hayes
Flickr Creative Commons

A new survey of New Hampshire's military veterans seems to indicate that the state's effort to create a better environment for veterans is working, but more work remains to be done.

(Scroll down to read the summary of the findings.)

The survey was conducted by the New Hampshire Commission on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Peggy LaBrecque, the chair of the commission and the commandant of the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, spoke with All Things Considered host Peter Biello to discuss the survey's results. 

Note: This transcript was machine-generated and edited for clarity 

This survey attributes some of the positive momentum experienced recently to a few state programs, notably the 'Ask the Question' campaign, which asks people such as doctors, police officers, and others who encounter the general public to ask, "Have you or a family member ever served in the military?" What in your survey suggests that the 'Ask The Question' campaign has made a difference? 

Well, we have found that through the actual questions that were asked in 2012 and then the answers that we got in 2017 —two very similar questions— that the percentage of people who felt that their providers understood them moved a little bit in the positive. There was an increase of the percentage of those that felt that their health insurance was correct or, you know, that that the treatments that they were getting due to their special service requirements, they felt that they were better.

And what about the military culture training programs the state has put on? These were programs that taught people about military culture and how it may manifest in veterans in the civilian world. How can you tell these training programs made a difference?

Right. Well, the respondents did say that they were asked the question more often and that when it was a positive answer and they answered in the positive, then they came back with questions about exposures. You know, "What could you have been exposed to? Do you know that you were exposed to certain elements?" And then the treatments and/or the different diagnoses could be very different from a civilian who had never been in contact with any of these different elements of military service.

From the last survey the percentage of respondents who indicated they had been diagnosed with PTSD increased by more than 17 percent. TBI also increased by about 5 percent. What do you think accounts for that?

Well, I think that people really feel more comfortable actually stating that they do have it. And I think that through the campaigns and talking about it more, that the stigma around having those diagnoses has been reduced. So people are coming forward more.

The survey showed that the number of veterans who are unemployed or looking for work has more than doubled since the last survey in 2012. Do you have any indication of why the employment picture for veterans seems to be getting worse?

We don't. Those are items that we're hoping to dig into and really start looking into more in-depth. We're very fortunate to have a member from the employment security on our panel so that we're able to, you know, maybe get some more data and analytic calls from the— more up to date ones.

The survey indicated that progress has been made, but there's still work to be done. Where, in your view, is more effort needed?

Well, I think that we need to continue the campaign of education of our providers. And so working with the hospital leadership representatives, as well as the possible board for the providers, that we'll be able to provide more of the culture training to our providers. We know that there is a turnover of providers in the state, so we want to make sure that it's not a one-and-done kind of training, that we need to continue to have the training and reach those people that we may have missed.

Read a summary of the survey's findings:

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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