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DoD Bolsters Service Members' Post-Deployment Health Assessment Process

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2003 – Thousands of active duty and reserve U.S. service members deployed overseas for Operation Iraqi Freedom will undergo an enhanced post-deployment health assessment process.

The new health evaluation process was approved mid-April and is being implemented now to provide added safeguards for the health of deployed service members, Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told Pentagon reporters April 29.

The process has been enhanced in several ways, Winkenwerder pointed out, and it applies to all military who have served or are serving in the Iraqi Freedom theater.

First, he said, a new post-deployment health assessment form asks more questions about a service member's physical and mental health than earlier versions and adds queries about possible health-threatening occupational or environmental exposures during deployment.

Secondly, Winkenwerder continued, each service member is required to undergo a post deployment health assessment face-to-face with a military health care provider upon redeployment to a demobilization site or home station.

Thirdly, all service members will provide a blood sample no later than 30 days after arrival at a demobilization site or home station, Winkenwerder said. The blood serum samples, he noted, will be stored in the serum repository. They may be used in the future to assist in medical care of an individual who later becomes ill, or to determine the extent of some deployment-related exposure that is recognized at a later date. The samples could also be used in the future if medical science develops diagnostic capability for exposures that may have occurred during a deployment.

He noted that results of all post-deployment medical health assessments would be placed within service members' permanent medical records.

DoD, he asserted, has a responsibility "to do right" for America's service members.

"They expose themselves to great risk and harm they perform bravely and admirably," Winkenwerder pointed out.

"We owe it to them to ensure that they have a comprehensive health assessment before they resume their usual sorts of duties," he concluded.

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