Current service members and veterans often face different mental health issues than the general population. The global war on terrorism has been ongoing for two decades. As a result, approximately one in five veterans returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also estimates that around 30% of Vietnam veterans will develop PTSD in their lifetime. Sadly, this has led to an average of twenty veterans who die by suicide each day. 
The aftermath of war and combat has a clear effect not only on veterans but their families. That is why timely, quality care is of the utmost importance.
Learn more about military substance abuse and PTSD treatment.
The VA Health Care System Offers Support to Veterans and Their Loved Ones
Each year, nearly nine million veterans receive health care services through the VA. The Veterans Health Administration promotes health and mental health care that focused on evidence-based interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. The VA is also heavily involved in ongoing research, spending approximately $1.8 billion on research each year.
For eligible spouses, dependents, and family caregivers of veterans, there are programs available. As stated by VA, health care coverage is offered to family members of certain veterans who are completely and permanently disabled, who died serving the U.S., and in some cases, or have children who have spina bifida (which was a common health concern for certain Korean and Vietnam veterans).  In addition, if you are the family member of an active-duty, deceased, or retired service member, you may qualify from the TRICARE program. This program provides coverage that includes prescription medications, dental plans, health plans, and programs for people with special needs. 
Interested in reading a personal story, written by the spouse of an Army Ranger and veteran? We recommend you read this, When Trauma Returns with a War Veteran: PTSD, Substance Abuse, and Family
Treatment Options Available for Veterans
Depending on what is being treated, there is a wide range of evidence-based treatment options specifically for veterans. This population requires specialized care based on what they have gone through. There are also several barriers to mental health for veterans, including the stigma surrounding mental health. Military cultures promote self-reliance and strength, which is why many veterans hesitate to seek the help they need and deserve. Data shows that no more than 40% of the soldiers living with mental health conditions use mental health services, and as few as half of those who seek care follow through with clinical referrals. Again, this is largely due to a fear of negative social consequences, as nearly one in four veterans who screen positive for a mental illness do not seek care because their leaders discouraged them from doing so. 
When seeking treatment, for many veterans, it’s hard to build trust. The professionals that work with this population should be well-trained in trauma care and understand military culture. This is the first step towards a well-structured, successful treatment program. In addition to the treatment facility and team involved, the type of treatment options offered also makes a significant difference. Treatment plans should be customized to meet each veteran’s unique needs, taking a holistic approach. For example, among those with PTSD, and other mental health conditions, the use of psychological interventions is often a first-line approach, with cognitive-behavioral therapy showcasing the strongest evidence for reducing symptoms of PTSD. Prolonged exposure (PE) is another common therapy used for veterans, being effective in 60% of veterans with PTSD. Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is now recommended as an effective treatment for PTSD as well. 
What Treatment Options Are Available for the Families of Veterans?
When many veterans return from combat they aren’t quite the same as they once were. This can be extremely hard on family members, especially the spouses and children of service members. The joy of reuniting with their husband or wife can quickly become a distressing situation. The transition to civilian life is tough for many veterans, which can create a ripple effect in their home life. Some experts have expressed their concerns about gaps in the mental health system for military families. Yes, the VA system does provide support. However, these services are limited. Some veterans are not eligible for VA care and others seek treatment outside of the VA system.  A 2019 study found that of the couples living together since the U.S. Gulf War, there was an increased risk of a mental health disorder among spouses of veterans. If a veteran developed post-war anxiety/depressive disorders or any mental disorder, their spouse was more likely to also develop a mental health disorder. 
Similar concerns have been reported among children living with veterans. In the United States, up to 42% of active duty and reservists have dependent children. The deployment and absence of a parent can trigger emotional and behavioral problems. However, sometimes it’s the family relations affected after a soldier returns home that poses a risk concerning a child’s mental health.  The goal in cases like this is to treat veterans as soon as possible so that the ripple down effect doesn’t create mental health issues or trauma for loved ones. The sooner a veteran’s PTSD, depression, or other mental health disorder is addressed, the better. Working with specialists can help spouses and children better understand how their veteran’s stress and trauma affect their relationship and what that means for their own mental health. It is not uncommon for children to experience academic, behavioral, or other difficulties while their family readjusts. Taking immediate action can help prevent future issues for the child and the family as a whole. 
If you are a family member or friend of a veteran, please check out the following resources:
- The Military Crisis Line — This confidential, immediate help is available 24/7 at no charge to active-duty, Guard, and Reserve members, as well as their families and friends. In the United States call 800-273-8255, then press 1, or access online chat at the Military Crisis Lineor by texting to 838255.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline — If there is chaos in your home, resulting in abuse, call 800-799-7233 24/7 or access live chat from 7 am to 2 am. Your military health care provider can also assist you.
- The National Resource Directory connects wounded warriors, veterans, injured service members, and their family members with national, state, and local support programs.
How the Help for Our Heroes Program Is Helping Veterans
At Transformations Treatment Center, we understand that our nation’s heroes require specialized support. That is why we developed the Help for Our Heroes Program, specifically designed for veterans and first responders. Founded by a military veteran and former first responder, this program offers residential and partial hospitalization treatment options for veterans struggling with PTSD, anxiety, trauma, depression, and other mental health conditions, as well as addiction.
Ready to seek help for yourself or a loved one? Transformations is here for you every step of the way. Contact us to discuss your needs today!
- Protecting Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Advocacy/Policy-Priorities/Improving-Health/Protecting-Veterans-Access-to-Mental-Health-Care
- The Affordable Care Act, VA, and You. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/health/aca/familymembers.asp
- Health care for spouses, dependents, and family caregivers. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/health-care/family-caregiver-benefits/
- Removing Barriers to Mental Health Services for Veterans. Retrieved from https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2015/01/28/14/51/removing-barriers-to-mental-health-services-for-veterans
- Reisman, M. PTSD Treatment for Veterans: What’s Working, What’s New, and What’s Next. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5047000/
- Military Family Clinic Supports Veterans and Their Families. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/military-family-clinic
- Toomey, R. et al. Mental health in spouses of U.S. Gulf War veterans. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30953873/
- Rayce, S. et al. Mental Health Among Children Living with Veterans: A Literature Mapping. Retrieved from https://sjms.nu/articles/10.31374/sjms.8/