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Screening for PTSD

Screening identifies those who exhibit symptoms of PTSD and determines who should receive full evaluation from a trained mental health care provider. The Department of Defense (DOD) promotes the use of empirically supported screening and assessment procedures, consistent with the 2017 VA/DOD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder.

Guidelines for screening for PTSD

DoD Health Assessment Forms

Periodic Health Assessment (PHA)

Pre-Deployment Health Assessment (PreDHA)

Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA)

Post-Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA)

Screening for PTSD in Primary Care

The DOD patient-centered medical home (PCMH) initiative includes mandatory annual screening for PTSD (among other mental health conditions) for all beneficiaries of the Military Health System. Primary care offers an ideal setting to educate patients and their families about PTSD and treatment options. Screening for PTSD in primary care may include the Primary Care-PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD), followed by the PTSD Checklist (PCL) if the PC-PTSD is positive. These measures can assess treatment progress or changes to clinical presentation with repeated administrations.

PTSD Screening Tools

Primary Care-PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD)
The PC-PTSD is a six-item, (yes/no) screening measure for use in primary care and other medical settings. Patients screen positive if they answer “yes” to three or more items and should receive further evaluation for PTSD.

PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5)
The PCL-5 is a 20-item, self-reporting tool using a 0-4 Likert scale, appropriate for use in screening individuals for PTSD, making a provisional PTSD diagnosis, and monitoring PTSD symptom change during and after treatment. It aligns with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria for PTSD. There are three formats: (1) with criterion A component (stressor); (2) without a criterion A component; and (3) with the Life Events Checklist for the DSM-5 (LEC-5) and extended criterion A component.

Last Updated: July 11, 2023
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