Study Finds GIs Turning to Civilian Healthcare

Due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the unmet medical and psychological needs of military personnel are creating major challenges and, increasingly, active duty military personnel are seeking physical and mental health services from civilian professionals. An article co-authored by a UNM professor analyzes some key policy issues related to these unmet health needs of active duty U.S. GIs.

The study, published in the March 2009 issue ofSocial Medicine/Medicina Social,, by Howard Waitzkin, distinguished professor, Sociology, Family & Community Medicine, and Internal Medicine at the University of New Mexico and Marylou Noble, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Amnesty International reviews the work of the Civillian Medical Resources Network, a small national network of professionals established in 2006 to offer GIs an alternative to the military health and mental health care system. Network members are professionals in primary care medicine, psychiatry, psychology, social work.

The article reviewsthe difficulties that some GIs believe they face with military medicine. These include dual agency (a conflict of interest between duty to the patient and duty to the military) and the privatization of military health care services. In addition the article describes the often dramatic clinical presentations of soldiers seeking assistance from the network.

The network provides independent evaluation and treatment for both medical and psychological problems and to date has worked with approximately 200 GIs. It began through word-of-mouth between medical and mental health professional and by formal outreach through two national organizations, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Physicians for a National Health Program.

GIs generally have limited financial resources and insurance coverage for civilian services. As of late 2008, 51 professionals were participating in the Network and providing services to GIs at a greatly reduced cost. Patients have been referred into the Network through the GI Rights Hotline as well as the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild.

Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322

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