VA undercounted Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran PTSD cases

Original report omitted three months of data.

The Veterans Affairs Department has undercounted the number of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans seeking care over the past decade for post-traumatic stress disorder by 10,299 cases or roughly 4 percent, the VA acknowledged in a revised June 2012 report. The department posted the revised report Dec. 12 on a public health website not linked to its main website.

The revised report said the department relied on an improperly constructed patient data file that omitted three months of data in the original report.

The new report shows 256,820 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans sought care for PTSD at VA hospitals and veterans centers from 2002 through 2012 based on an underlying, revised report of 834,467 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who obtained health care from the VA for a variety of conditions over the past 10 years.

This puts the number of veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars seeking care for PTSD at roughly 30 percent of the total number who sought health care. The overall, revised health care report shows 444,451 or 53.3 percent of the total sought mental health care, which includes treatment for PTSD, depression, psychoses, alcohol and drug abuse, over the past 10 years. This ranks mental health disorders third behind musculoskeletal disorders (476,763 or 57 percent) and ill-defined conditions (437,209 or 52 percent).

The Dec. 10 PTSD report also appears to contain errors, based on adding the undercounted cases to an archived copy of the original June 2012 report retained by Bergman and Moore, a Bethesda, Md., law firm that specializes in veterans’ cases. 

That report showed 247,243 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans sought care for PTSD over the past decade, and when 10,299 undercounted cases are added to this number, the total number of PTSD cases for the decade is 257,532, not the 256,820 cases VA cited in the Dec. 10 revised report.

VA bases its Afghanistan and Iraq veteran health care reports on pay records provided by the Defense Manpower Data Center and operational records provided by the military services, which collect data on individual veterans who have left the service after deployments.

VA then correlates this data with inpatient and outpatient electronic files to identify Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who sought care from the VA .