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Supplemental deployment health assessment starts in December

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 30, 2005) -- Airmen returning from deployment now have two opportunities to let healthcare workers know of their mental and physical health status.

Beginning in December, the Air Force will require all Airmen returning from deployments to complete a post-deployment health reassessment. The PDHRA needs to be completed between 90 and 180 days after returning home from a deployment. The PDHRA complements the post-deployment health assessment, which Airmen complete at the end of their deployments.

The PDHRA is another layer of assessment meant to capture information about mental and physical health issues that may not have materialized immediately upon a return home, said Lt. Col. Jim Favret, the clinical consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General for the biomedical science corps.

"The PDHRA enhances the existing procedures we have to monitor the health of our Airmen," he said. "It is an additional tool we are about to put in place to check the health of our Airmen after deployment."

On paper, the PDHRA is a four-page Department of Defense form called DD2900. That document is already available online. But Airmen will not fill out the paper form. Instead, some 90 days after returning from overseas, their unit deployment manager will send them a link to a Web-based version of the form.

The results of an Airman's PDHRA will be sent to his or her medical treatment facility for review. At the Airman's request, or as the result of a determination made by someone reviewing their assessment, an Airman may be called in to discuss potential health concerns with a medical professional.

"If folks indicate they are experiencing some symptoms, then they will have an opportunity to meet with a health care provider who will do a more in-depth assessment," Colonel Favret said. "Then we will provide them with follow-up care if it is needed."

The PDHRA gathers information from Airmen about their current health status with questions similar to what might be filled out when visiting a doctor's office. For instance, the assessment provides a list of symptoms Airmen can select. There are also questions about injuries or wounds sustained during deployment and potential exposure to environmental hazards.

The assessment also asks questions about an Airman's interaction with his or her family, use of alcohol, and experiences while on deployment. "Have you had any experience that was so frightening, horrible, or upsetting that, in the past month, you felt numb or detached from others, activities, or your surroundings?" one question asks.

"This PDHRA has a lot more focus on mental health issues," Colonel Favret said. "The Air Force wants to send the message to folks that it is perfectly normal that at different points in our lives we have mental health concerns, especially after a stressful deployment, and that it is okay to acknowledge that and to seek help."

While the PDHRA is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional, it is another opportunity for Airmen to let the Air Force know about their health status. And it is another opportunity to catch something serious before it can escalate.

"The health of servicemembers is a critical part of being mission ready," Colonel Favret said. "I think this will help Airmen by giving them an opportunity to express concerns and problems they are having and have them addressed by a health care provider as they emerge."

The paper version of the PDHRA can be found at: www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/forminfo/forminfopage3292.html.