At a May 24 hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, APA member John A. Fairbank, PhD, testified that if services members' mental health conditions are not accurately diagnosed and treated, the effects will not only have devastating consequences for the service members, but also for their families. Research conducted on Vietnam veterans, for example, has found that families of veterans with PTSD were "more likely to suffer domestic violence than families of veterans without PTSD," said Fairbank, associate professor of medical psychology at Duke University Medical Center and co-director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

In addition, said Fairbank, children of veterans with PTSD hadsignificantly higher levels of behavioral problems than other veterans' children.

"A hard lesson we learned from our nation's response to Vietnam veterans is that we do not want to delay doing our best to prevent war-related PTSD from wreaking havoc on the futures of our veterans and their families," he said.

APA member Antonette M. Zeiss, PhD, deputy chief consultant for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Mental Health Services, also testified at the hearing. "Appropriate attention to the physical and mental health needs of veterans will have a positive impact on their successful re-integration into the U.S. economy and society as a whole," said Zeiss.

"We have seen that many returning veterans have injuries of the mind and spirit, as well as the body. For veterans of prior eras, we have learned that mental disorders can increase the risk for certain physical illnesses, and vice versa. In addition, current returning veterans experience events that result in both physical and emotional injuries. Our goal is to treat a veteran as a whole patient-to treat a patient's physical illnesses, as well as any mental disorders he or she may be facing."

-S. MARTIN