[ The Real McCoy Online Home

 July 09, 2010

Armywide News

Screening for Army Post deployment health Reassessment ongoing

By Lt. Col. Sophia Tillman-Ortiz, Director, Health Reassessment Program U.S. Army Post-Deployment

Soldiers are 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 knowledge.

PHOTO: Soldiers complete the Post-Deployment Health Reassessment. Department of the Army photo
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 redeployment.

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 attended.”

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 years ago.

“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 NCOs.”

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 deployments.

“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.

[ Top of Page ]

[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]