By Sgt. John Slosser
BLACKSTONE, Va. -- More than 300 Soldiers from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team became the first troops from Virginia to receive the Department of Defense Post Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA).
The PDHRA is part of the force health protection program designed to extend the range of care for Soldiers’ deployment-related health concerns. It provides education, screening, assessment and access to care for a wide variety of health and readjustment questions and concerns that may not emerge until Soldiers have been home for three- to six-months.
"We are doing what we have been directed to do and so much more!" said 1st Lt. Russell Britt, Virginia's PDHRA program manager. "A key component of the program is the one-on-one time soldiers get with health care providers."
The screening and education process covers everything from post traumatic stress and family problems to financial and educational benefits. The Soldiers had the opportunity to discuss any health concerns or questions with a health-care provider in a private face-to-face session. If a Soldier required further evaluation or treatment, a follow up appointment could be scheduled with an appropriate health-care or community service provider.
"When a Soldier returns from a deployment all they really want is to go home," said Col. Kim Dillon, deputy chief of staff for personnel. "After a few months, some might recognize deployment-related issues or problems with their health, families or jobs," said Dillon. "I think it's very important for them to understand that they should have no fear for reprisal in asking for help in getting proper assistance with personal or professional issues."
The event not only included teams of doctors, nurses, and counselors, but also representatives from a range of veteran organizations from around the state.
"We want every one of them to have a chance to meet with us," said Debra Butler, Veterans Affairs liaison for returning Soldiers. "Every Soldier should understand all the help and benefits available to them. Then, if they want or need assistance, they will know where to go."
Many cite the program as a move forward in understanding the physical, environmental and emotional challenges today’s Soldiers face during deployment.
"When I got out of the Navy I had no idea about the benefits that were available to me. You had to go out and find it. Now we take the information right to troops," said Rick Tatum, a physicians assistant with the PDHRA. "We've gotten a lot of very positive feedback. It gives us a chance to give back a little for what (the Soldiers) have done for us."
While the program organizers plan to meet with other recently re-deployed units throughout the year, other states are looking to Virginia as an example of how to conduct their own reassessments. Although this is the state’s first, the overall message is that the PDHRA program is a standard to be followed by all re-deploying units from now on.
"We all cope with things in different ways," said Britt. "(The Soldiers) all seem to agree that this is a positive and worthwhile service."
More information about the Post Deployment Health Reassessment can be found on the internet at www.pdhealth.mil or www.deploymentlink.osd.mil. Soldiers and their families can also call the Deployment Health Help Line at 1-800-497-6261