02:06 PM

PTSD iPhone App Launches For Veterans

The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs launch the free PTSD Coach to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder seek immediate help or manage their symptoms.

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Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) now can turn to their mobile devices for help, thanks to a new application from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD).

The two agencies have developed the PTSD Coach application to help veterans dealing with symptoms of PTSD. The app can link them to local sources of support and even help manage their symptoms in the moment, according to the VA.

The free application, now available via the iTunes store for the iPhone, also provides people with accurate information about PTSD, so the agencies are encouraging family members and friends of veterans suffering from it to download it as well. The agencies also plan to release an Android version of the app by mid-June.

However, the application is meant to be a supplement and not be a replacement for mental health treatment and other medical services available to veterans through VA benefits, the agencies said.

"This is a great service we are providing to veterans, service members, their families and friends, but it should not be seen as a replacement for traditional therapy," Dr. Robert Petzel, the VA's under secretary for health, said in a statement. "Veterans should utilize all of the benefits they have earned with their service. One of the best things about this app is it will get veterans connected to the places that are out there to provide help."

PTSD Coach is the first of a series of resources being offered for PTSD sufferers from the VA National Center for PTSD and the Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth and Technology. Given the popularity of mobile devices, the agencies thought an application would be a good way to reach a critical mass of PTSD-stricken veterans and their support communities, they said.

Indeed, federal agencies increasingly are leveraging mobile devices as a way to better engage with their constituencies and offer value-added services. Increased public engagement is a key goal of the Obama administration's Open Government Directive.

In January the IRS began offering IRS2Go for both the iPhone and Android devices. The applications allows people to file updates to their taxes, check the status of their refunds, and follow the IRS via its Twitter feed, among other features.

Around the same time the FBI began offering the FBI Most Wanted iPhone app, which lets people access the agency's list of most wanted fugitives and view high-priority missing children cases via their devices.

The Army and NASA also are among federal agencies offering popular smartphone applications.

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