PTSD & TBI: Joining Forces in Caring for Veterans

Just one question can open the dialogue with patients who have PTSD or TBI.

Often, just asking the question, “Have you or a loved one ever served in the military?” can be enough to open a dialogue with your returning veteran patients who are facing health challenges.

Recent studies indicate that the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other health issues such as depression and substance abuse are increasing among veterans. Family physicians may be the first line of health care for these returning veterans and should be prepared to diagnose and treat these conditions.

Helping Our Returning Veterans

The AAFP is uniting with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden in a new campaign called Joining Forces(, which aims to support veterans and their families.

AAFP Past President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I, announced this initiative as an important step to educate family physicians on how to screen patients and what to do when a problem is identified. Read Dr. Stream's blog post, Colonel's Request is Simple: Ask Patients if They Served in Military, about the importance of being aware and supportive of veteran patients' concerns.

The AAFP has compiled the resources below to help family physicians care for patients who have served in the military, and to raise awareness of health issues that may affect returning service members.

For Family Physicians

Care of the Returning Veteran
American Family Physician
Practical, accurate screening tools to help primary care physicians evaluate patients for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Point-of-Care Guides: Screening Instruments for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
American Family Physician
Family physicians are well positioned to offer continuity of care for issues affecting returning service members and to coordinate the delivery of specialized care when needed.

FPs Are at Front Lines of Combating Post-traumatic Health Issues in Vets
Too many soldiers home from deployment bear the emotional scars of combat silently, leaving it to their doctors to uncover and treat hard-to-identify wounds that can tear lives apart long after a tour of duty ends. Fortunately, FPs are uniquely qualified to ensure these returning veterans get the medical help they deserve.

U.S. Military Focuses on Patient Care by Implementing PCMH Model
When Army major and family physician Julie Hundertmark, M.D., started working in 2005 as a resident at a family medicine clinic in Fort Benning, Ga., she often felt as though she was practicing alone, isolated from her physician colleagues and other members of the health care team. In 2009, however, the Army chose the clinic Hundertmark works at as one of its first patient-centered medical home (PCMH) sites.

Veterans With PTSD at Increased Risk for Receiving, Abusing Opioids, Study Finds
U.S. veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a new battle waiting for them when they return home, but family physicians are well-positioned to aid them in the fight.


From the War Zone to the Home Front: Supporting the Mental Health of Veterans and Families(
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)
A new online educational series that includes lectures on what providers need to know about the challenges of coming home after war, recognizing PTSD and co-morbidities, traumatic brain injury and more. This live program, designated for a maximum of 14 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits, is intended for: primary care and community mental health providers, pediatricians, community health centers, community mental health centers, college and university health professionals, psychiatric nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, employee assistance programs, clergy and other first responders.

Treating the Invisible Wounds of War: Understanding Military Family Issues(

The Citizen Solider Support Program (CSSP)
This Enduring Material activity, Treating the Invisible Wounds of War: Understanding Military Family Issues, has been reviewed and is acceptable for up to 3.0 NBCC Credit Hours (Provider #5470); 3.0 Contact Hours; 0.3 CEU.

Treating the Invisible Wounds of War: A Primary Care Approach(
The Citizen Solider Support Program (CSSP)
This course was designed from a primary care perspective to help family physicians recognize, diagnose, treat or refer post-deployment mental health issues in military service members and their families.
This Enduring Material activity, Treating the Invisible Wounds of War: A Primary care Approach, has been reviewed and is acceptable for up to 1 Prescribed credit(s) by the American Academy of Family Physicians. AAFP accreditation began July 1, 2011. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

For Your Patients has trusted, reliable health information for the whole family.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder(
Information for patients on the symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD.

Traumatic Brain Injury(
Information for patients on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of TBI.