Walker, '12, Works with VA to Evaluate PTSD Programs

By Ryan Walker, '12

I Ryan Walker, '12will graduate from Albion in December of 2012, because I missed a semester while training for the Marines. Since I was in the military myself, I find it extremely rewarding to have the opportunity to help our country’s veterans. As part of my psychological science studies, I am currently involved in a summer internship at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Battle Creek, MI.

Working with the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) clinical team, I have been helping to evaluate veterans' satisfaction with a program the VA instituted about six months ago. In VA University, PTSD sufferers can choose recovery courses from a list of courses ranging from music lessons to veteran sharing groups.

This program is so new that they've never done any evaluations, so I am developing and implementing my own surveys. I have been enjoying this opportunity to talk to veterans and get their feedback for the VA University program.

This work is extremely satisfying because I have been approached on multiple occasions by veterans explaining how grateful they are to have their voices heard. Also, I'm gathering information that will allow the clinical team and me to make changes to improve patient care. PTSD is prevalent among our nation's warriors, and we must do everything in our power to make sure the veterans are receiving the best treatment possible.

Along with conducting program evaluations, I have been conducting data entry and analysis used to determine trends in the progress of the PTSD patients. By evaluating data gathered over three years, we will be able to assess treatment programs and what is or was working the best.

Looking at hundreds of veterans' files may seem as though it would get old fast, but it doesn't. Many days, before I know it, I have already completed everything that I needed to do! It is a rewarding feeling to know that the work you are doing will positively influence such a great group of men and women.

Although most of my work revolves around the treatment of PTSD, I am also able to see beyond the treatment settings. I have recognized the incredible need in our communities for PTSD support programs. I have come across many veterans who struggle once they are out of the safe VA environment. We need our communities to come together and support these veterans in every way possible. We tend to hear about PTSD on the news only once something terrible has happened. This should not be the case! Recovery is a never-ending process and there are positive stories that can come out of it.

Before I came into this internship, I knew how helpful the VA had been to some of my fellow marines. With this knowledge, I understood the magnitude of the work the Battle Creek VA was doing. Veterans of foreign wars and Veterans with service connected disabilities usually qualify for completely covered health care—they deserve no less!