William Winkenwerder Jr., M.D., oversees the military's readiness to
provide health care services and support to soldiers during military
In the next few months, the U.S. military will begin conducting a second
survey of American soldiers three to six months after their return from Iraq
and Afghanistan to identify whether they need mental health care.
The military already conducts surveys of all active-duty soldiers within
two weeks of their return from overseas deployment to detect health and mental
health symptoms. That initiative began in April 2003 when the war in Iraq
"We made the initial postdeployment health survey as inclusive and
routine as possible to decrease potential stigma and increase
participation," William Winkenwerder Jr., M.D., assistant secretary of
defense for health affairs, told reporters at a January briefing in
"We have since learned from research published in last July's New
England Journal of Medicine that soldiers who were assessed three to four
months after deployment in Iraq in particular had significantly higher rates
of PTSD and depression than predeployment," Winkenwerder said.
To detect mental health problems that emerge months afterward, the
Department of Defense (DoD) has assembled a multidisciplinary team that
includes several psychiatrists to design the survey questions and
implementation process, according to Col. Joyce Adkins, the DoD's program
manager for operational stress deployment for mental health. She added that
more details would be released at a later date.
"Our goal has always been to identify health concerns at the earliest
possible time, so that we can begin care quickly and effectively,"
Adkins told Psychiatric News.
The surveys are anonymous but include Social Security numbers. "This
information allows us to add the surveys to the person's health record and
compare responses to health and mental health questions in previous
surveys," said Adkins. ▪