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Publication Briefs

Veteran Minorities Equally Likely to Receive PTSD Treatment


  • Minority Veterans were similar to Whites in the likelihood of receiving VA mental health treatment in the six months following a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Veteran race, but not Hispanic ethnicity, was found to contribute to the use of some mental health services. For example, African Americans and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders were more likely than Whites to engage in counseling, and African Americans were more likely than Whites to receive at least eight counseling sessions. Overall, Native Americans were similarly likely to receive treatment, but were less likely to receive psychotropics.
  • Of the 20,284 Veterans with PTSD in this study, 50% received psychotropics, 39% received counseling, and 64% received at least one of these forms of treatment. However, only 24% who received any counseling had at least eight sessions, and most had only one session.
  • These findings indicate that possible treatment preferences exist. The authors suggest that incorporating preferences into treatment planning may facilitate treatment retention and help to maximize treatment outcomes for all Veterans with PTSD.

More than 380,000 Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) receive disability compensation or mental health treatment through the VA. But many Veterans with PTSD either do not seek treatment or participate in treatment only episodically. Participation in mental health treatment depends largely on severity, disability, and treatment accessibility; however, demographic characteristics also contribute. This retrospective cohort study sought to determine the rates of mental health use in the six months after Veterans received a PTSD diagnosis - and to examine whether service use varied by race or ethnicity. Investigators used VA administrative data to identify more than 20,000 Veterans diagnosed with PTSD at any VA facility between 4/04 and 3/05.


  • Administrative databases may have inaccurate diagnoses and/or racial or ethnic identifiers.
  • The absence of mental health appointments in the VA databases may mean that treatment was received outside VA.

PubMed Logo Spoont M, Hodges J, Murdoch M, Nugent S. Race and Ethnicity as Factors in Mental Health Services Use among Veterans with PTSD. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2009 Dec;22(6):648-53.

This study was funded by HSR&D. Drs. Spoont, Murdoch, and Nugent are part of HSR&D's Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research in Minneapolis, MN.

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What are HSR Publication Briefs?

HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

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