News Release

Behavioral health research stimulates policy changes for care of Iraq, Afghanistan veterans

AcademyHealth recognizes military health research study with 2011 HSR Impact Award

Grant and Award Announcement


Washington, D.C. (February 8, 2011)—AcademyHealth today recognized research that improves access to behavioral health care for returning U.S. service members with the 2011 Health Services Research (HSR) Impact Award. The research project, "The Invisible Wounds of War," is the first and only large-scale, nongovernmental assessment of the psychological needs of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and led to policy action by members of Congress, the Department of Defense, and the VA, and other stakeholders.

"The policy changes resulting from this study show how powerful and essential research is to improving care for Americans," said Lisa Simpson, president and CEO of AcademyHealth. "With this award, we recognize the effective dissemination and translation strategies that gave policymakers the evidence needed to inform their decisions."

The study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, analyzed the mental health and cognitive needs of veterans. The investigators found that nearly 20 percent of U.S. service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and/or traumatic brain injury. Roughly half of those needing treatment had sought it, but only slightly more than half who received treatment got minimally adequate care. As a result, RAND researchers disseminated their findings to a broad group of stakeholders, and recommended improvements to ensure better access to and delivery of evidence-based mental health care.

The analysis drew the attention of policymakers and the public to the large numbers of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who developed behavioral health care needs following deployment. Study findings stimulated wide-reaching policy change. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates finalized modifications to the Department of Defense security clearance application to diminish potential stigma associated with psychological care. Subsequently, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called for mandatory screening for post-traumatic stress for all returning military personnel. The principal user of this research, the U.S. Congress, cited the study as essential in its work.

Accepting the award on behalf of the RAND "Invisible Wounds of War" project is Terri Tanielian, M.A., senior social research analyst and co-director of the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research.


AcademyHealth represents a broad community of people with an interest in and commitment to using health services research to improve health care. We promote interaction across the health research and policy arenas by bringing together a broad spectrum of players to share their perspectives, learn from each other, and strengthen their working relationships. Learn more at

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