During this week's National Executive Committee meetings in Indianapolis, American Legion Past National Commander William Detweiler will deliver a report on the findings of the Legion's Traumatic Brain Injury/Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Ad Hoc Committee.
Part of that report will focus on the fact that PTSD and TBIs aren't going away – and neither should the Legion's role in raising awareness about both conditions and improving care for U.S. servicemembers who suffer from them.
"I think we've gleaned a lot of information, yet every time we've met we've gotten additional information," Detweiler said. "We've learned that this isn't something where you can just have one meeting, do a report and then that's it. It really has a life of its own. It's continuous.
"We can, and need, to play a role in continuing to keep pressure on DoD and VA to keep TBI and PTSD as a priority."
Realizing cases of PTSD and TBI were growing at an alarming, the NEC approved Resolution 13 , Creation of an Ad Hoc Committee on TBI and PTSD, during the 2010 Fall Meetings. The committee was tasked to "investigate Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) existing science and procedures for treating TBI and PTSD, as well as alternative treatments."
The committee conducted seven meetings, made site visits to medical facilities, and heard from mental health experts in both the federal and private sectors.
Detweiler pointed to the committee's most recent meeting last February as an example of the continuous flow of new information it received. There, retired Col. Ron Poropatich, executive director of the Center for Military Medicine Research, Health Sciences at University of Pittsburgh, provided the committee a wealth of valuable input.
Poropatich – who spent 30 years in the U.S. Army as a pulmonary/critical care medicine physician – briefed the committee on the use of telemedicine in mental heath care, as well as a new imaging tool he and his staff are working on in Pittsburgh that allows physicians to see high-definition views of the brain's wiring that would not be captured from traditional MEG, MRI and other brain scans. The imaging can track mild TBI.
Poropatich also discussed mCare, which provides – through the use of mobile phones – securing messaging and security between case managers and wounded, ill and injured servicemembers. Poropatich is working with the Department of the Army to approve the dissemination of mCare across the country at all Warrior Transition Units. The possibility of the Legion helping coordinate community service and assistance through access to servicemembers via mCare technology was discussed during the meeting.
Detweiler believes the ad hoc committee already has made a positive impact in regards to PTSD and TBI.
"Every day in the news clips (sent out by National Headquarters), at least one clip has something to do with the mental state of the troops," Detweiler said. "I don't remember seeing that before (the committee's formation). I think we've had some kind of influence on keeping this issue in the public eye."