Furthermore, the severity of the initial condition cannot be determined in relation to long-term affects.
VA clinics are the best source of information pertaining to older veterans and PTSD. It is not known where all veterans of previous wars are at the current time, but VA does have scattered statistics on older veterans. According to VA WWII veterans received a hero's welcome home, as opposed to Vietnam Veterans who were the targets of an angry public (National Center for PTSD, 2007b). The welcome that they received had a tremendous affect on the ability to cope and recover from the traumas associated with war. According to VA, the affects of PTSD on older veterans is often more subtle than in Vietnam Veterans or those from more recent conflicts. For instance, the older veteran may experience irrational fears, which can later be traced to trigger memories related to the war. Therefore, there is solid evidence that PTSD exists in older veterans, but it is much more difficult to track and there are no solid statistics available for this population.
As a result of the knowledge gained regarding PTSD from Vietnam Veterans, statistics about the occurrence of PTSD in subsequent wars is much better. For instance, it is estimated that the occurrence of mental disorders among veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom was approximately 6.4% (Larson, Highfill-McRoy, & Booth-Kewely, 2008). Estimates from the current operation are approximately 5 times this estimate. The question is why there is such a disparity in the numbers. It may be that there are factors associated with this operation that were not present in previous operations, or it may simply be a matter of better record keeping and tracking methods. It is difficult to determine the reasons for these differences. This is a similar problem as can be found in tracking PTSD among private contractors.
After the War
After the war, the veteran must attempt to adjust and return to normal society. They may return to a military position, or they may have to re-adjust to civilian life. PTSD can have a significant impact on their ability to adjust to life after the war zone. Veterans with PTSD have a higher divorce rate than those without PTSD (Calhoun, Beckham, & Bosworth (2002). This is indicative of adjustment problems and their affect on family relations. It is difficult to predict which areas of a veteran's life will be affected by PTSD and to what extent, but there is one thing for certain, the veteran will have to make some major adjustments.
Not all of the affects of being in the war zone are negative. Life after war can be an opportunity to develop a new outlook in life to pursue new endeavors. It can be an opportunity to reunite and develop stronger relationships with loved ones. However, these affects have not been the topic of serious academic study. We know more about the negative affects than the positive ones.
The impact of being on the front lines extends beyond the symptoms displayed by the veteran. The war zone has an impact on every aspect of the rest of their lives. It affects their future vocation and their ability to carry out meaningful employment. It affects their relationships with their family and their friends. The combat veteran may or may not have the ability to pursue a meaningful social life. The experiences of the veteran extend to others around them by the way it affects their ability to function in society.
Those that have survived traumatic events need the support of family and professionals to help maximize their ability to cope with their experiences. The veteran who received proper support will be the most likely to recover and to develop the coping skills necessary to adjust to this new phase in their life. The literature review revealed that we know much about the affects of PTSD on the combat soldier, but that this knowledge does not extend to other groups that are also exposed to the war zone, but that are not military personnel. It is not known if they are receiving proper treatment or if PTSD is affecting their ability to adjust once they return. This study will compare responses to the war zone among two groups, one consisting of military personnel and one consisting of non-military private contractors who are exposed to the war zone in Iraq.
Based on information contained in the Literature Review, the proposed research will support the following hypotheses:
H1: Both military and non-military personnel employed in the combat zone in the Iraqi War will display symptoms of PTSD.
H2: Military personnel will display better coping skills than non-military personnel due to access to proper treatment methods.
The current military operations in Iraq differ from previous conflicts in the high degree of non-military private contractors being used to support U.S. military operations. This creates a unique situation where non-military personnel are subjected with similar stresses and active military. This leads to an increased potential for the development of combat related disorders, such as PTSD, among private contractors. This study will be one of the first to address PTSD among non-military contractors among those employed in the current operations in Iraq. It will do so by comparing the responses from a survey administered to a group of military personnel and a group of non-military personnel returning from deployment in the war zone.
The study will survey two groups three months after returning from deployment in Iraq> Both groups will be administered the same survey, with the responses of the two groups being compared to one another. The first study group will consist of 200 members of the military, primarily from infantry and marine groups. These two groups are the most likely to have been exposed to traumatic events related to the war. They will be of mixed demographics, with this information being used for statistical purposes only. The second group will consist of non-military personnel employed by private companies to serve as support for military personnel in the combat zone.
The survey instrument will focus on the effectiveness and availability to treatment strategies between the two groups. The survey will address issues in obtaining treatment for both groups. Demographic information will be collected for profile analysis only. Validity of the survey will be determined by calculating Chronbach's Alpha for the survey group. The survey will be self-reporting, thus, it will reflect the true feelings of the subject, rather than providing a clinical assessment of their condition.
The survey will be administered to military combatants three months after returning from deployment. The survey will be administered through the local army and navy bases in the area. Survey participation will be voluntary. However, it is expected that the study will have a high response rate, as the combatants will see the importance of the study in relation to PTSD.
Companies will be located that provide support services to military personnel in the war zone. The companies will be contacted and asked to participate in the study. PTSD is a serious problem for these companies and it is expected that members of their company will be willing to participate. They will be administered the same survey as military personnel, approximately 3 months after they return from deployment.
This will be a comparative study that assesses the differences between two groups of soldiers and combat assistance personnel that have returned from the combat zone. The results of these two groups will be analyzed using descriptive statistics. Pearson's product moment and frequency distribution will be used to compare the results of the two groups. It is expected that these two groups will have a high degree of correlation in their experience with PTSD. However, it is expected that contractors will not be as likely to military personnel to have access to help for PTSD resulting from exposure to the combat zone.
This study addresses a seldom studied population of combatants that may or may not be receiving the help that they need for treatment of PTSD obtained while in the combat zone. This group of contractors does not have access to military benefits, including psychiatric treatment for PTSD. They must rely on inconsistent private insurance benefits. Yet, they have many of the same stresses as combat veterans serving in the military. This study is expected to demonstrate that inconsistencies exist in the treatment of non-military personnel in the combat zone.
Calhoun, P.S., Beckham, J.C., & Bosworth, H.B. (2002). Caregiver burden and psychological distress in partners of veterans with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15, 205-212.
Henkel V, Mergl R, Kohnen R, Maier W, Moller HJ, Hegerl U. (2003). Identifying depression in primary care: a comparison of different methods in a prospective cohort study. BMJ 326:200-201.
Hoge, C., Castro, C., Messer, S., McGurk, D., Cotting, D., and Koffman, R. (2004). Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Problems and Barriers to…