|By Lt. Col. Sophia Tillman-Ortiz, Director, Health
Reassessment Program U.S. Army Post-Deployment
confronted every day with terms like mental health, suicide prevention
and traumatic brain injury. These words frequently penetrate the
airwaves of our radios, and screens of our TVs and computers.
Even with the growing attention to post-deployment health, it is easy
for Soldiers to say, “This doesn’t pertain to me,” when in reality these
issues may very well be affecting those Soldiers without their
Soldiers complete the
Post-Deployment Health Reassessment.
Department of the Army photo
The Army has programs to address these issues in the hope that
Soldiers will participate in them.
The Post-Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA) is one of these
programs. Different from the Post-Deployment Health Assessment, which is
completed immediately after deployment, the PDHRA screens Soldiers
90-180 days following time in a combat area, and specifically targets
physical and behavioral health concerns that may have emerged since
Over the years, Soldiers have had mixed feelings about the program. Is
it a check-in-the-box? Is it simply another exercise the Army has
mandated? Despite these sentiments, Soldiers have progressively seen the
value of the program, and have gained an understanding of how it helps
them as individuals.
Sgt. Angel Malone, an Oklahoma National Guardsman, said: “At first I was
kind of angry, because we had to go back and do another screening. It
was aggravating, because we had already gone through so many SRPs
(Soldier Readiness Processing). This seemed like a similar process. I
later realized this was definitely different from other SRPs I had
This initial impression is not uncommon. With the numerous tasks
Soldiers must complete upon their return, the difficulty lies in letting
them know that the PDHRA is an opportunity to address something that is
personal to them — their own health.
“You don’t know what you don’t know, and this becomes the foundation of
our problem,” said Col. Thomas Languirand, chief of the Command Policy
and Programs Division, Deputy Chief of Staff for G-1/Personnel, who
currently oversees the PDHRA. “How do you prove to Soldiers that not
only do they not know what they may be facing, but they may not realize
it until it’s too late?”
Malone said her experience gave her piece of mind that her originally
brushed-off concerns were ones she could control. In her case, the PDHRA
helped identify that what she thought was frustration was actually
clinical depression. Equally important, the PDHRA provided her with an
opportunity to receive treatment for her condition, and eventually
solace from her difficulties.
“I wasn’t too sure if the concerns I had were a figment of my
imagination. During the PDHRA, I realized it was a concern many of us
had shared. This empowered me to respond truthfully throughout the
process, and get the help I never thought I needed,” Malone said.
Reluctance like Malone’s, along with gaining awareness and acceptance of
the PDHRA, have been challenges for the program since its inception five
“Our largest obstacle back then was to truly get the Army’s buy-in,”
explained Col. Rhonda Earls, the first PDHRA program director. “This
ranged from big Army all the way to the Soldiers on the ground and their
From Earls’ perspective, understanding and support came once the PDHRA
was able to prove quantitatively that issues not only existed, but that
they existed on a significant scale. “The stress of war couldn’t really
be quantified back then,” she said. “We had an understanding of what
these stresses were, but with the PDHRA, we were able to match these
issues with a real number for the first time, and offer a call-to-action
for the Department of the Army to address.”
Another challenge for the Army and the PDHRA is multiple deployments.
Specifically, the program is often questioned about how it deals with
the relationship between post-deployment health concerns and multiple
“Post-deployment health issues can affect anyone,” said Languirand.
“It’s a nondiscriminator that sees past the number of deployments an
individual may have had.”
In Languirand’s view, this issue is an important one, but he believes
the focus should be on anyone who has deployed. It is for this reason
that the PDHRA stresses to Soldiers that the screening must occur after
every deployment, to ensure that all Soldiers have an opportunity to
identify issues quickly. While the Army provides more health resources
to its Soldiers than ever before, the success and effectiveness of the
program relies on a partnership between the Army and Soldiers; it is not
a silver bullet. The PDHRA requires active and candid participation by
the Soldiers themselves.
“Some Soldiers will have issues, others will not. If Soldiers don’t
answer honestly, it is as if they didn’t take it at all,” said
Languirand. “It takes a willing Soldier to identify the issues, and
receive the care so they can properly transition back home.”
Soldiers can initiate the PDHRA on Army Knowledge Online (search for
PDHRA). However, the screening is not complete until there is a
one-on-one, confidential conversation with a health care provider.