In 2007 Stand for the Troops was serving comfortably as a small niche player working to deliver improved combat equipment to our warfighters. We were just coming off of a major legislative success that had resulted in life-saving changes to the Department of Defense testing and acquisition process that had enabled a corrupt contractor to deliver thousands of defective individual protective body armor plates to combat troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan when we became aware of the growing challenges surrounding caring for service members returning from combat with TBI and PTSD. We identified the following problems:
First, the number of invisibly wounded service members and veterans is much larger than either the Department of Defense or the Department of Veteran anticipated or were prepared to deal with.
Second, these invisible wounds are more disabling, last longer and more often “comorbid” with other disabling conditions like chronic pain, fatigue, depression, and substance abuse than was expected.
Third, the “evidence-based” treatments employed by the DOD and VA are much less effective than anticipated.
These problems are compounded by economic hardships caused by a disability compensation system that pays a totally and permanently disabled combat veteran at the same rate as a 19 year-old Private First Class.
Through the efforts of our world-class Medical Task Force, we also discovered that there were a number of emerging medical treatments and therapies that were, in fact, consistently effective in treated combat-disabled veterans suffering with PTSD and/or TBI. While relatively new, both the safety and biological efficacy of these treatments have already been established in both clinical trials and clinical practice. Many of them have been used extensively in treating conditions related to PTSD and TBI, but have only recently been applied to treating the invisible wounds of war. In the future these treatments will become widely available to all Americans through tradition, insurance-reimbursed care systems, but combat veterans should not have to wait on the lethargic pace of medical adaptation to get their lives back.
In addition to medical treatments that directly affect the physiology of these injuries, we also identified and number of accommodations and wellness therapies that enhance rehabilitation and recovery, especially when incorporated with genuinely effective medical treatment.
To combat these problems we borrowed a conceptual from our collective experience in military targeting at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of warfare to deploy this powerful arsenal. This framework is represented by a series of concentric rings. Each ring represents a related set of “targets” we needed to address in order to win our war on invisible wounds of war. In this framework, services provided in every ring benefit disabled veterans. However, the benefits derived from the services provided in the inner rings provide more value to disabled veterans than the benefits derived for services in the outer rings. Furthermore, the value of inner services are higher because they reduce or even eliminate the need for outer ring services.
In the center of the ring we placed the highest payoff targets that would produce the most value in solving the problems we identified. While outer rings decline in relative payoff, they also represent a continuum of care that can greatly enhance an invisibly wounded veteran’s recovery when they complement success achieved in the inner rings. Our system of target rings are:
- Safe, medically proven treatments that effectively heal the physiological damage to the brain caused by TBI and PTSD and restore a wounded veteran to good physical and emotional health, meaningful social relationships, gainful employment, and a high quality of life.
- Persistent accommodations for combat disabilities that enable veterans to function in the face of residual disabilities that interfere with achieving social or occupational success.
- Wellness therapies that both facilitate treatment by temporarily mitigating some of the worst symptoms of invisible wounds and then help sustain improvements gained through treatment and rehabilitation.
- Innovative research to better understand the invisible wounds of war that can be rapidly translated into even more effective treatments.
- Medical Research on the effects of TBI and PTSD on the brain
(SFTT Partner: New York State Psychiatric Institute)
- Neurostimulation Technique