Of the approximately 4 million U.S. service members who took part in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many began experiencing mental health problems upon their return from deployment. They developed conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance use disorder, and in particular, suicide—at higher rates than the general population.
ADAI Director Dr. Dennis Donovan participated in a national committee to review and evaluate mental health services available to U.S. veterans, resulting in a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The committee conducted site visits and sought input on the use of VA mental health services directly from veterans of these wars, their families and caregivers, health care providers, and others at each of the Veterans Integrated Service Networks across the U.S.
The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the quality, capacity, and access to mental health care services for veterans who served in the Armed Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn.
The survey found a lack of awareness about how to connect with the VA for mental health care; not knowing how to apply for VA mental health care benefits; being unsure if they are eligible; and lack of awareness that the VA offers these benefits.
Other barriers to seeking VA mental health care services include lack of transportation options to and convenience of medical facility locations; concerns about taking time off work and potentially harming their careers; and fears that discrimination could lead to a loss of contact with or custody of their children, or lead to a loss of medical or disability benefits.
After reviewing the relevant published literature, conducting site visits, and surveying veterans, the report makes recommendations for examining best practices for VA facilities to forge community partnerships, addressing workforce shortages, and developing and implementing standardized performance measures to assess and improve care for veterans with mental health conditions.
Read the full report online: https://doi.org/10.17226/24915