Armed Forces News

The Government Accountability Office will review the way the Department of Veterans Affairs treats patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other combat-related conditions. At the request of Reps. Mike Coffman, R-CO., and Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., the government’s top watchdog agency agreed Sept. 27 to study how heavily VA relies upon powerful psychotropic drugs to treat patients.

Both Coffman and Kuster have received numerous complaints from veteran constituents, who contend that VA relies upon psychotropic medications far too often.

Both lawmakers, and their colleagues on Capitol Hill as well, are concerned that use of the medications could be a contributing factor to the alarming rate of suicides among veterans. They cite the cases of two Colorado veterans who were prescribed the drugs by VA. One later committed suicide and the other was reported missing for several days.

“This decision is a victory for combat veterans everywhere who are suffering from PTSD and who have been prescribed a cocktail of very powerful drugs to mask their symptoms in lieu of other forms of interactive therapy that work to bring down the stress levels of PTSD to a point where they are no longer debilitating,” said Coffman.

“When our men and women return home from the battlefield we need to do all we can to support their transition back to civilian life,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “That means addressing the wounds of war both seen and unseen. We need to ensure that drugs aren’t being used as a substitute for other forms of therapy and I welcome GAO’s announcement that they will review prescribing practices for psychoactive drugs.”

In July, Coffman and Kuster co-sponsored legislation that would require VA to expand initial mental-health assessments, so that more veterans could get them. The bill is now pending before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.