Background: Most veterans have the option of receiving their health care from the Veterans Health Administration or through primary care providers in the private sector. However, there is some evidence that fewer than half of community-based, private sector primary care and mental health providers screen their patients for military service, particularly in rural areas, leaving these veterans less likely to be screened for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other military service–related conditions.
Purpose: To determine whether primary care providers in the private sector are screening patients for military service and subsequent PTSD.
Methods: We designed and piloted a survey to determine whether primary care providers in a rural Pennsylvania region routinely screen for military service and service-related PTSD. We distributed the survey to a convenience sample of more than 250 primary care providers in central and western Pennsylvania through the U.S. Postal Service, via Facebook, and via work e-mails for those who worked in a local health system.
Results: Among 50 eligible respondents, only four (8%) said they screen all their patients for military service, and 20 (40%) reported screening none; only two respondents (4%) screened all their patients who have served in the military for PTSD, and 30 (60%) screened none.
Conclusion: Veterans who rely on private sector providers may not receive evidence-based care for military service–related health problems, including PTSD. To improve care for these patients, providers in the private sector should be educated on why all patients should be screened for military service, how to conduct such screening properly, and veterans’ general health concerns.