VA Health Care: VA Spends Millions on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Research and Incorporates Research Outcomes into Guidelines and Policy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Services
In addition to providing health care to veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) funds research that focuses on health conditions veterans may experience. According to VA, experts estimate that up to 20 percent of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and demand for PTSD treatment is increasing. Because of the importance of research in improving the services that veterans receive, GAO was asked to report on VA's funding of PTSD research, and its processes for funding PTSD research proposals, reviewing and incorporating research outcomes into clinical practice guidelines (CPG)--tools that offer clinicians recommendations for clinical services but do not require clinicians to provide one service over another--and determining which PTSD services are required to be made available at VA facilities. To do this work, GAO obtained and summarized VA data on the funding of PTSD research from its medical and prosthetic research appropriation through its intramural research program. GAO also reviewed relevant VA documents, such as those for developing CPGs and those related to VA's 2008 Uniform Mental Health Services in VA Medical Centers and Clinics handbook (Handbook), which defines certain mental health services that must be made available at VA facilities. GAO also interviewed VA officials.