Health & Wellness Resources for Veterans
When joining the military, young men and women are often in excellent health. They have passed rigorous training and examinations and are prepared for the demands of service. Some service members may be deployed into combat situations, while others may serve in more of a supportive or administrative capacity. However, regardless of their roles, whenever a service member enters a war zone, they may experience a traumatic event. These types of events may have serious effects on a service member’s physical and mental health. From substance use disorder to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and disability, veterans often come home to an entirely different fight — the fight to regain their health, manage a disorder or disability and restore relationships with loved ones.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and many nonprofit organizations across the U.S. are taking on the responsibility of providing critical health care services to our nation’s veterans. The following information and links to resources will help guide veterans to obtaining the care they need.
Important Hotlines for Veterans:
NVF Lifeline for Vets: 1-888-777-4443
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (and dial 1)
Statistics on Veterans’ Health in the U.S.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 1 in 3 service members develop mental health conditions within three to four months of returning home. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the early signs of these illnesses and obtain timely and effective care.
Statistics on Health Conditions Among Veterans and Service Members
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In 2014, rates of PTSD among veterans were 15 times higher than among civilians. According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, “Approximately 18.5 percent of U.S. service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq currently have post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.”
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). In 2017, 17,841 service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. However, most cases of TBI in the military are classified as mild, or a concussion. According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, approximately 19.5 percent of U.S. service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have experienced TBI during deployment.
Depression. In 2014, rates of depression among veterans were five times higher than among civilians.
Anxiety. Between 2000 and 2012, there was a 327 percent increase in reported anxiety disorders among service members.
Substance Use Disorder (SUD). A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 1 in 4 service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showed signs of substance use disorder.
Disability. In 2016, about 25.1 percent of noninstitutionalized civilian veterans ages 21 to 64 years reported having a VA service-connected disability in the U.S.
Treatment for PTSD
Cognitive Processing Therapy. Veterans learn how to change upsetting feelings and thoughts.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). During this type of therapy, veterans fixate on a back-and-forth movement or sound (such as a finger moving back and forth, a tone or a light) while learning how to process and understand the trauma.
Prolonged Exposure (PE). Veterans learn how to approach trauma-related situations, feelings and memories and to stop avoiding them.
Virtual Reality Graded Exposure Therapy (VRGET). Through this type of therapy, veterans are repeatedly exposed to a simulated fear-inducing environment in order to quell the fear response and reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms.
Medication. Veterans may be prescribed medication to help treat the symptoms of PTSD.
Treatment for TBI
Veterans will experience different symptoms, depending on the severity of their TBI. Physicians will usually recommend rest for mild cases, but severe cases may require surgery.
For more information on treating TBI, visit the BrainLine website.
Treatment for Depression, Anxiety and Substance Use Disorder
Support group. Sharing traumatic experiences with other veterans can help reduce the pain and anxiety associated with service.
Visit the PTSD Foundation of America website for more information on joining a Warrior Group.
Therapy. Therapists can use the following types of talk therapies:
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy technique is designed to teach veterans about how emotions, thoughts and behaviors are interlinked, to develop better patterns of thinking, and to practice positive behaviors.
2. Interpersonal therapy (IBT). Veterans practice improving positive relationships and resolving their relationship problems.
3. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Veterans learn how to recognize, pursue and achieve their goals, such as overcoming struggles with emotional pain and anxiety.
4. Motivational enhancement therapy. This form of therapy can help veterans strengthen their commitment to recovery.
Medication. Buprenorphine and methadone can be used to help ease withdrawal for veterans battling SUD.
Health Care for Veterans
Veterans should consider beginning the process of obtaining health care services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA website offers valuable information and links to health care partners and programs.
Health Care Benefits Available to Veterans
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Benefits Overview. This resource covers the VA health care enrollment process and eligibility requirements, the medical benefits package, coverage under the Affordable Care Act, VA health benefits programs, and frequently asked questions.
Apply for VA Health Care Benefits. Use this link to begin the application process and access VA health care benefits.
Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN). Browse the VA directory of health care facilities by state.
Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). This health care program, administered by the VA, shares the cost of supplies and covered health care services with eligible beneficiaries.
TRICARE. This program has health plans for veterans and military personnel, as well as their families, including dental coverage and a pharmacy program, and it also serves specific health care needs.
RHIhub. This website features information and resources for veterans living in rural areas in need of health care services.
Health Care Benefits Available to Families of Veterans
Purchased Care Health Benefits. Veterans and their dependents may be eligible for health care services external to VA facilities.
Your VA Disability Claims Process: Understand common ailments and the associated VA codes to help maximize your claims.
Health Benefits for Family Members of Veterans. The VA offers numerous programs for family members of veterans, including CHAMPVA, Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV), Caregiver, the Spina Bifida Health Care Program, and the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFMP).
Physical and Mental Health Resources for Veterans
Restoring the well-being of a veteran requires addressing both the physical and mental aspects of health. The following resources can help veterans determine the type of care they need and which services are best for them.
Resources for Veterans’ Physical Health
Health Programs for Veterans. This directory lists specific health support services for veterans’ health.
National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Resources are available to veterans and the general public for preventing disease and early detection.
Wounded Warrior Project. This nonprofit organization offers coaching, skill-building activities and physical training to injured veterans. It also directly serves veterans’ family members and caregivers.
Home Base Program. This nonprofit organization offers the Warrior Health and Fitness Program, which aims to improve veterans’ physical health and well-being through education on healthy habits, physical training, and techniques to reduce stress and manage anxiety.
Resources for Veterans’ Mental Health
Netcare Access. Veterans can call 614-276-2274 and receive help for a crisis 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
National Institute of Mental Health. Veterans can browse health topics from the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders.
The Soldiers Project. Post-9/11 veterans, active duty service members and family members can receive free and confidential mental health services.
Additional Resources for Veterans
InTransition. The Psychological Health Center of Excellence (PHCoE) offers this program for veterans, active-duty service members, National Guard members, reservists and retirees in need of mental health care when returning from deployment, preparing to leave for military service, relocating for another assignment, or transitioning between active duty and reserve component.
Center for Women Veterans (CWV). Part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, CWV supports and advocates for women veterans.
National Center for PTSD. This research and educational center on PTSD and traumatic stress offers information about treatment options for veterans.
Project CHALENG. This program, whose acronym stands for Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups, serves the needs of homeless veterans by uniting concerned citizens, homeless service providers and advocates.
Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) Program. VJO specialists strive to provide assessment, direct outreach and case management for justice-involved veterans in local jails and courts by acting as a liaison with local justice system partners.
Anxiety.org, Military Stress
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI
Disability Statistics, Online Resource for U.S. Disability Statistics
National Alliance on Mental Illness, Veterans & Active Duty
National Veterans Foundation, Troubling Veteran Mental Health Facts and Statistics That Need to be Addressed
Psychology Today, Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for PTSD in the Military
RAND, Invisible Wounds: Mental Health and Cognitive Care Needs of America’s Returning Veterans
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Understanding PTSD Treatment
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, About VA Mental Health