More than three in four injured veterans surveyed by the Wounded Warrior Project count post-traumatic stress disorder among their service-connected ailments, but getting mental health care continues to be a struggle for them, according to a new report released by the group Wednesday.
The survey of 23,000 injured current and former troops gives a snapshot of the challenges facing that segment of the veterans’ population, and mirrors frustration from previous years about health care access and long-term health problems.
Defense Department estimates put the number of veterans with obvious physical injuries from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at around 52,000 people, but more than 10 times that figure as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuryies.
In the WWP survey, 43 percent of respondents reported sleep problems connected to their injuries, 66 percent reported nightmares from unpleasant wartime memories, and 76 percent reported hypervigilance or panic affecting their daily lives.
"This generation of injured veterans continues to struggle with the invisible wounds of war, including PTSD and TBI, and the challenges are not getting better with time," said WWP CEO Steve Nardizzi in a statement.
Despite the need, 35 percent of veterans surveyed said they could not get mental health care or put off seeking that care because of problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs or other local health care offerings.
That's down slightly from the 40 percent reported in last year's survey, but still alarmingly high, group officials said.
WWP officials are launching their own Warrior Care Network in early 2016 to address that need. The three-year, $100 million project will include four medical center partners in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago working toward a national medical care network to connect wounded veterans with new medical-care resources.
More than half the survey respondents said they have sought professional mental health care already, illustrating a strong desire among the group's members to seek out help for their problems.
Complete results of the survey are available on the WWP website.