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Report Finds Gaps in Health Services for U.S. Veterans
Date:3/31/2010

ew one, he said.

"There are a lot of readjustment needs that we are just beginning to look at," he said.

Physical needs of veterans are being met, for the most part, Wu said, but their mental health needs are not.

"The mental health providers in many places are really overwhelmed with huge case loads," he said. "Some social workers talk about having 700 or 800 cases that they are responsible for, which is extraordinary."

Other veterans face long waiting periods before they can be seen, and many have to endure long travel times. Moreover, the Veterans Affairs department has problems keeping mental health professionals, Wu noted.

The VA and the Defense Department need to come up with good estimates of the number of mental health professionals needed and determine where they are needed, he said.

In addition, the number of people seeking help will undoubtedly grow because the peak of health service needs, historically, comes 30 years after a conflict. "The peak needs are going to be somewhere around 2040, and those projections haven't been done," Wu said. "We need to know what the need is and then make a plan for it."

As for solutions, Wu noted that there is very little to base solutions on, which is why the report stresses the need for more research before the committee can come up with more specific recommendations.

The report was done under a mandate from Congress in 2008. For the just-completed first phase, the committee used scientific literature, media reports and testimony from veterans and their families gathered at town hall meetings to identify what it determined to be the most important needs of veterans and their families.

In the next phase, Wu said, the committee will turn its attention to more detailed findings and recommendations based on reviewing additional data and the results of ongoing research. That will take about 30 months to complete, he said.

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