Screening and Screening Tools

Screening identifies those who exhibit symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and determines who should receive full evaluation from a trained mental health care provider. DoD promotes the use of empirically supported screening and assessment procedures, consistent with the 2017 updated VA/DoD CPG for the Management of PTSD and ASD.

Guidelines for Screening for PTSD: New Patients are screened for PTSD at first visit; Existing Patients are screened for PTSD when clinically indicated; Pre-deployment health assessment within 60 days of deployment; Post-deployment health assessment 30 days after return from deployment; Post-deployment health reassessment 3-6 months after return from deployment; During the periodic health assessment annually. *Each of these time periods are opportunities to routinely screen for major mental illnesses.>

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DoD Health Assessment Forms

DoD Policy Guidance

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-report 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) includes criterion A component (stressor); (2) without a criterion A component; (3) extended criterion A component along with the Life Events Checklist for the DSM-5 (LEC-5).