The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is an organization dedicated to helping those who have served in the United States military to thrive physically, mentally, and financially after their service is complete.1 With more than 20 million veterans living in the United States, it is a population that deserves attention.2
- In 2016, there were an estimated 20.4 million veterans in the US.2
- It was also estimated that about 9% of US veterans were female. That number is expected to increase in coming years, potentially doubling by 2045.2
- About 12% of US veterans are African American, around 7% are Hispanic, and about 4% are other races. These numbers are also projected to increase in coming years.2
- California is home to more veterans than any other state: more than 1.56 million.3
Programs Offered by Veterans Affairs
Many veterans come away from their time in service with little but their military experience to help them get a job. Still others have debilitating health issues related or unrelated to their time in service. Whatever the issue, the VA offers a number of services and programs dedicated to helping veterans get what they need to take care of themselves and their families. Just a few of their programs include:4-8
- Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO): This office provides veterans and transitioning service members with employment readiness assistance and outreach. Offered programs include VA for Vets, Feds for Vets, and Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program (DVAAP).
- VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC): This program helps veterans make the transition to college life and find success with on-campus benefits assistance and counseling.
- Go Red Heart Match: Dedicated to helping female veterans fight heart disease, this service allows female veterans who struggle with the disorder to find each other and get the support they need to fight the issue.
- VA Veterans Hiring Fair: Job fairs help veterans find the employers who are looking to support them and their service by offering them a job that often utilizes skills they developed while serving at a fair wage.
- Veterans Crisis Line: Free confidential support to veterans, their family, and their friends who are in crisis. Contact:1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.
Rural workshops are also offered throughout the country so veterans can learn about the services available to them.
Mental Wellness After Military Service
A number of veterans who have served in high-danger, high-stress situations and locations suffer from mental health issues that require professional attention. Some of the most common disorders include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): The characteristic symptoms of PTSD develop after exposure to a traumatic event. People with PTSD may continue to experience symptoms—such as recurrent stressful memories or flashbacks—for weeks, months, and even years after experiencing something scary, shocking, or dangerous. People experiencing PTSD may relieve the traumatic event over and over, avoid things or places that remind them of the experience, feel numb, or struggle with nightmares and sleeplessness.9
- Depression: Depression can affect anyone, but is most prevalent among young adults. Common signs and symptoms of depression may include sadness, hopelessness, sleeping too much/not enough, losing interest in everyday activities, and having little energy almost every day. Depressive disorders may be accompanied by feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, and unworthiness.10,15
- Anxiety: While it is normal to worry and feel anxious about life, when that anxiety becomes persistent and begins to impact your job, relationships, and regular activities then it may be a sign that there is a deeper issue. Signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder may include restlessness, difficulty concentrating, rapid heart rate, trouble catching your breath, trembling, difficulty sleeping, nausea, and lightheadedness.11
- Substance use disorder (SUD): People who are experiencing stress, depression, PTSD, or other mental health issues, may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with those symptoms or to forget. Misusing those substance may lead to a substance use disorder that can impact all aspects of one’s life.12
Increased Access to Care with the MISSION Act
For veterans who are struggling with mental health and substance use disorders, the VA is there to offer quality treatment via inpatient rehab programs. However, VA treatment centers may not have availability or be accessible for some veterans who need treatment for both their mental health issues and their substance use disorders. In order to provide care for as many veterans as possible, the VA has the MISSION Act, which expands veteran access to health care both in VA facilities and from general providers in the community, as well.13
Most often, veterans need approval from the VA before they can receive treatment from a community care provider. Once they have received approval, based on eligibility requirements, availability of VA care, and their own needs, they can seek alcohol and drug rehab via community care.14 With approval, veterans can obtain treatment from private rehab centers in their communities.
While veterans can receive care outside of the VA, they can only receive that care from VA approved community care providers (CCPs). American Addiction Centers’ Desert Hope and Recovery First are both approved VA CCPs. Both facilities have Salute to Recovery programs that are designed specifically to treat veterans with both SUDs and mental health disorders. Treatment includes trauma groups, pain management, cognitive behavioral therapy, emotion regulation, relapse prevention, coping skills, grief and loss, and recreational therapy. Many of the staff at both facilities are veterans themselves and can provide a safe, supportive environment for veterans to discuss their experiences and struggles.
Getting What You Need to Heal
If Veterans Affairs is unable to provide what you need to treat your mental health disorder or doesn’t have the resources to completely mitigate the symptoms, private treatment services can help you fill in the blanks. A wide range of alternative and holistic services are available to help round out your treatment program and give you the tools you need to feel more balanced and stable.
Know that you are not alone, and that there are people at VA and beyond who care about you and your help. If you are looking to begin on your road toward recovery and are unsure how to proceed, reach out to one of our admissions navigators at 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers?. We can get through this together.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). About VA.
- Bialik, K. (2017). The Changing Face of America’s Veteran Population. Pew Research Center.
- Harrington, J. (2019). There are 18.2 million veterans in the US. Which state is home to the most of them? USA Today.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). About VESO.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). VetSuccess on Campus.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Go Red for Women.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Upcoming Events.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Veterans Crisis Line.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Mental Health: PTSD.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Mental Health: Depression.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Mental Health: Anxiety.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Mental Health: Substance Use.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). VA MISSION Act.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2019). Community Care.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).American Psychiatric Publishing; 490-491.