Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Improving DOD Program Coordination

More than 200 programs available through DOD help military members and their families with psychological health and TBI issues, but according to a new RAND Corporation study, better coordination is needed between programs.

The report “Programs Addressing Psychological Health and TBI Among U.S. Military Service Members and Their Families” compiles a catalog of programs sponsored or funded by DOD. The research was done by the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research as a joint effort with RAND Health and the RAND National Defense Research Institute.

Between 2001 and the end of 2010 more than 2.2 million military members were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the recent drawdown in Iraq, the high operational tempo of the past decade has included longer and more-frequent deployments resulting in significant mental health problems.

The RAND study is the first to fully catalog all support programs for psychological health and TBI as well as assess how such efforts compliment traditional service providers and routine care. The study identified 211 programs but found no single source with DOD or service branches that maintain a list of these programs or track new program developments.

RAND researchers say DOD should conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to identify how many service members and their families require services, what their characteristics are, what types of assistance they need, where they are located, and detail the clear and strategic relationships between programs and existing clinical care systems. DOD should then identify how well these programs are meeting those needs, what opportunities exist to improve current programs, and where the need exists to develop new programs.

The RAND study also recommends that DOD identify a central authority to be responsible to coordinate programs between service branches and within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This central authority would also handle efforts to evaluate program effectiveness and would also continue to track these programs.

“The effectiveness of these programs is not being consistently evaluated,” said Carrie Farmer, a study co-author and a RAND associate policy researcher. “Less than one-third of the programs in any branch of service have reported having an evaluation to assess their effectiveness in the past 12 months.”

For more information on the study, go to