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Veterans Administration Fails to Offer Effective PTSD Treatments to Veterans

by Dawson Church, PhD

One of the disturbing aspects of combat trauma is the cost to society when veterans come home. Around some military bases, the number of murders and rapes spikes sharply, according to an article in Slate magazine. These terrible events are more than a tragedy; they are a symbol of our failure as a society to effectively treat veterans with PTSD.

The Veterans Administration (VA) has struggled with the burden of a huge number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. Some 2.4 million Americans have been deployed there, and estimates of the number with PTSD run as high as 30%. Simply diagnosing PTSD has strained VA resources, with a backlog extending about 600 days.

In the face of this challenge, the VA has resolutely refused to implement promising new drug-free treatments that can eliminate PTSD in most cases, preferring to prescribe risky and and often-ineffective drugs instead. Between 2001 and 2011, the VA spent $717 million on a drug called Risperidone, touted as a treatment for PTSD. A 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that Risperidone was no more effective than a placebo.

In that same time period, many practitioners presented case histories to various VA officials showing that EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), a safe, drug-free behavioral treatment, eliminates PTSD symptoms in veterans. EFT combines acupressure (manual stimulation of acupuncture points) with cognitive and exposure therapies.

EFT studies were presented to the VA as early as 2008, when Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote a personal letter to then-secretary for Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki enclosing an early outcome study showing veterans recovering from PTSD after EFT treatment. Three other congressmen wrote to Shinseki again in 2010, enclosing more research and further evidence. The VA took no action on this information either.

Therapists frustrated at the lack of progress at official levels set up their own web site to offer EFT and similar therapies to veterans. Called the Veterans Stress Project, it has now offered treatment to over 10,000 veterans. Over 200 therapists and life coaches all over the US offer their services free of charge or a minimal cost.

A randomized controlled trial, published in 2013 but made available to the VA in 2010, showed that 86% of veterans recovered completely and permanently after just 6 EFT sessions. In September of 2013, Congressman Tim Ryan wrote another letter to Secretary Shinseki, this time advocating EFT on the basis of 18 randomized controlled trials.

Like all the other letters, this one was rebuffed, with the VA declining to examine the evidence, perform its own research, refer patients to the Veterans Stress Project, or take any other action to get EFT to suffering veterans. Dozens of studies have shown that EFT is effective for depression, anxiety, phobias, PTSD, and other problems commonly affecting veterans.

Each new act of violence by veterans with mental health problems reminds us of the folly of the VAs approach. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) says that “The VA cannot have this ‘see no evil hear no evil’ attitude” towards EFT. We have the solution sitting on the shelf, unused by the very institution that’s meant to be helping our veterans.

The costs of failure are staggering. Each veteran with PTSD costs an estimated $1.5 million to treat (usually ineffectively), while a course of EFT treatment costs about $500 (and is effective in about 9 out of 10 cases). For what it spent on Risperidone alone, the VA could have offered EFT to every single veteran suffering from PTSD. According to a report in the American-Statesman, in 2012 “the Pentagon spent more on pills, injections and vaccines than it did on Black Hawk helicopters, Abrams tanks, Hercules C-130 cargo planes and Patriot missiles — combined.” According to an outcome study, for the cost of treating one veteran with conventional treatments, the VA could have offered EFT to 2,000 sufferers.

Shinseki was eventually forced to resign over the VAs scandalous neglect of PTSD sufferers, and its attempt to hide its incompetence by falsifying medical records. Yet the institution has yet to offer EFT or any of the other effective treatments to its patients.


dawson-church-phd-headshotDawson Church, PhD, is an award-winning science writer with three best-selling books to his credit. The Genie in Your Genes was the first book to demonstrate that emotions drive gene expression. Mind to Matter showed that the brain creates much of what we think of as “objective reality.” Bliss Brain demonstrates that peak mental states rapidly remodel the brain for happiness. Dawson has conducted dozens of clinical trials, and founded the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare (NIIH) to promote groundbreaking new treatments. Dawson shares how to apply these health and performance breakthroughs through EFT Universe.

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