First Lady Tackling Medical Treatment For Vets


WASHINGTON January 11, 2012, 01:19 am ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama has gotten a new commitment from medical schools to boost training and research for the treatment of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health injuries.

The initiative is part of the first lady’s Joining Forces campaign, which focuses on issues affecting veterans and their families.

Mrs. Obama was to announce the commitment from more than 100 medical schools during an appearance Wednesday at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The schools are agreeing to step up training for medical students in how to treat PTSD and traumatic brain injury, increase research into the conditions and share new information and best practices.

Aides said Mrs. Obama will emphasize that while most troops come home from combat with few or no mental health issues, those who do should not see it as a source of shame or weakness.

The Defense Department estimates that nearly 213,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2000.

An earlier report by the Rand Corp. think tank estimated that 300,000 veterans of both conflicts suffered post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. Fewer than half had sought treatment for PTSD over the preceding year and nearly 60 percent of those reporting a probable brain injury weren’t evaluated by a physician for one.

“This is a long-term issue for the nation,” said Brad Cooper, the executive director of Joining Forces.

There is no new funding associated with the initiative, and medical schools will make their own decisions about how to integrate more training and research into PTSD and traumatic brain injury into their curriculum.

The first lady will also headline fundraisers in Richmond and Charlottesville, Va., on Wednesday to raise money for the Democratic National Committee and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

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