Veterans provide a service to the nation that is irreplaceable, yet many face personal and professional hardships when they return from service or retire. Some of these include mental health disorders or substance abuse issues, housing troubles, financial hardships, and much more.
Because veterans give so much to our country, they deserve not only respect but ample resources to help them integrate back into society after service. This process can be made difficult due to trauma faced while in service, lack of employment after retiring, any mental health disorders which developed or worsened during their time in service, addiction issues which arose as a result, or financial or personal hardships experienced due to their absence from home.
While popular belief holds that the nation does not provide nearly enough resources to help veterans in their transition back into civilian life, there are a number of services and programs available due to state funding to help veterans during this difficult time in their lives.
Help from the state is made possible in several forms, including services, programs, and funding. These state-funded resources for veterans are largely made possible through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), though some other government entities provide these services as well.
The main resources available include resources for housing and treatment programs and services for addiction and mental health treatment.
Unfortunately, many veterans struggle to find or maintain adequate housing, leaving them homeless or nearly homeless. While it’s nearly impossible to get an exact number of how many veterans are currently homeless, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans explains that more than 40,000 veterans face homelessness on any given night.
Homelessness of veterans is impacted by a number of factors, including an extreme shortage of affordable housing options, lack of livable income, lack of access to healthcare, and living with issues such as substance abuse and mental disorders. The VA does provide a number of resources for homeless or displaced veterans, some of which are listed below.
The state provides capital grants to state, federal, and tribal agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, which work with a liaison from the VA to provide housing to homeless veterans or veterans who may become homeless. These agencies provide transitional housing with a specified number of beds and collaborate with local, community-based organizations to provide other services, such as employment help and social services. The maximum stay for these houses is 24 months, during which time these agencies try to help veterans secure permanent housing.
This program works to reach out to homeless veterans in the most vulnerable situations and place them in rehabilitation programs or other treatment programs. The program has a facet known as the Contract Residential Treatment program, which places veterans with severe mental health disorders in supportive housing.
This portfolio management tool allows certain land and buildings to be leased to qualifying, private entities which in turn use the buildings and land to provide supportive housing and services to eligible veterans. Services offered may include job training, help with financial management, haircuts, computer use, access to laundry facilities, use of fitness centers, and more.
Designed for veterans who are deemed very low-income, this program provides individualized case management and supportive services to help prevent loss of a veteran’s home or help them find a better-suited housing situation. The program also helps to quickly re-house homeless veterans and their families and keep others from becoming homeless by integrating preventative measures, such as financial planning and educational aid.
This program provides a collaborative service from the VA and HUD to help veterans and their families find and sustain housing. HUD provides rental assistance housing vouchers for qualifying homeless veterans while the VA provides supportive services, such as health care, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment.
The SSA provides a website called Service to the Homeless which provides information on social security, updates the website with information regarding federal homeless initiatives, and provides links for resources for the homeless.
An interactive online forum which connects individuals with healthcare providers, professionals in mental health and substance abuse fields, and others to better the lives of those affected by homelessness.
The Rapid Re-Housing Approach is utilized by many of these programs, ensuring that housing is the foremost goal for homeless veterans and their families. The philosophy of this approach was designed to provide veterans and families with housing regardless of their financial situation, such as income or employment status, or whether the veteran is recovering, struggling with addiction or substance abuse, or still in treatment. Though housing is the core goal of programs with this approach, the other goals include financial assistance and personal case management.
Ultimately, rapid re-housing works to reduce the amount of time a veteran spends homeless, reduce the negative impact of homelessness on veterans’ lives, and to offer access to resources for veterans in order to help them reach housing goals.
Through state-funded clinics, the VA provides access to a number of inpatient treatment programs, medically supervised detox programs, and outpatient services for those in recovery from or in need of treatment for addiction or substance abuse.
Inpatient programs provide comprehensive, residential care with medical detox if necessary, medication when needed, and a number of evidence-based treatments, including counseling, therapy, and medication-assisted treatment. Many veterans come to treatment facing more than one issue, such as addiction and a mental health disorder like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In order for a veteran to fully heal, both issues must be identified and properly addressed at the same time.
Medically supervised detox programs allow veterans to heal from the physical side of addiction, known as dependence. Physical dependence to certain drugs, like alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids, results in uncomfortable and often painful withdrawal symptoms when a person tries to stop use of the substance. Detox programs allow veterans to wean off use of the substance or substances safely and surrounded by medical personnel.
After veterans have completed medically supervised detox and an inpatient program, he or she may integrate back into their home community. However, addiction is a chronic illness which requires long-term management. For this reason, it’s important that veterans in recovery have access to unlimited resources, such as outpatient addiction services which incorporate individual counseling, group therapy, and 12-step support groups.
VA clinics provide residential treatment (inpatient care) when needed, and usually for those in treatment for the first time. But the main focus of addiction treatment is putting veterans in touch with local resources and support groups, providing medication management, such as methadone or Suboxone, and providing case management for recovering veterans.
VA hospitals and clinics also provide mental health treatment for veterans in need and their families. Services offered in these facilities are determined specifically by the VA. Some principles which guide mental health care for veterans are comprehensive, holistic care, an in-depth focus on recovery, Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT), and mental health treatment coordinators.
Patient Aligned Care Teams are teams of medical professionals who work together to ensure each veteran receives well-rounded care. This team is directed by the overall primary care provider (PCP). Mental health treatment coordinators assess and identify the overall mental health of a veteran and have the primary responsibility of making sure the veteran’s needs for mental health care are met. The treatment coordinator checks in with the veteran regularly to assess ongoing progress and to help keep the veteran on track for meeting recovery goals.
Treatment programs are located throughout the nation, and adding more locations all the time to better fit the needs of all veterans, including mobile clinics and by coordinating with community health clinics to provide VA care.
VA mental health care programs provide access to emergency care and round-the-clock medical care within their clinics, and the programs incorporate evidence-based treatments, counseling, therapy, and family and marriage services.
The VA also provides access to suicide treatment coordinators and a veterans crisis line for those in need.
In addition to services and programs provided by the VA, a number of federal agencies and national organizations provide resources for veterans and their families to help them integrate back into society and for ongoing support.
known as DOL-Vets, this department provides access to resources and services which help veterans on the employment front, including finding and getting the most out of employment, protecting employment rights, and helping place veterans in jobs to meet labor-market demands.
supports health and human services for all Americans, which can include veterans, by offering services such as access to healthcare.
an online resource which provides veterans with resources to support and services which aid in recovery, rehabilitation, and re-integrating back into society.
provides counseling and outreach services to veterans who served in combat, as well as for their family members with military-related issues.
supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, this program works to supplement ongoing state and federal efforts for those who face homelessness by providing food, shelter, and other supportive services.
an organization comprised of the top VA officials in each state who work together to ensure the VA provides uniform, equal, efficient, and effective services in all 50 states.
There are also a number of national service organizations for veterans, dedicated to providing aid to veterans in as many forms as possible. Some of these organizations include:
The following are miscellaneous resources, services, and programs for veterans available in the United States:
For more information on all listed resources for veterans, including state-funded and others, visit the VA website.
Veterans are not untouched by substance abuse and addiction, and in fact, many are at increased risk for development of these issues. Veterans and active service members with multiple deployments and combat exposure are at the highest risk for developing drug and alcohol misuse problems, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).
The Council explains that members who have faced multiple deployments and/or combat may also use more prescribed medications, such as opioid painkillers, and tend to have three co-occurring health issues: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and pain, the combination of which complicates treatment or contributes to development of substance use.
While not all veterans will experience these specific issues, or the combination, many veterans face substance misuse as they attempt to self-medicate or alleviate pain or hardship. In addition, veterans attempting to integrate back into society after combat or retirement face civilian life issues which can also contribute to substance use, including job loss, rifts in relationships or divorce, and financial struggles.
The primary substance use issue among veterans is misuse of prescription drugs. While abuse of illicit substances remains relatively low for veterans, abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise. This may be in part due to the pain and mental health issues experienced by many veterans. In an effort to alleviate the pain or other symptoms, a person may change the dosage of a prescription or the method of administration for faster or stronger effects. However, doing so increases chances of developing addiction or a substance use disorder while also increasing risk of overdose.
The Department of Health and Human Services conducted one study in which military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were surveyed and found that 25 percent had one of the following: PTSD, anxiety, depression, and chemical dependency. More than half of the same respondents had more than one substance use disorder and/or mental health disorder (a dual diagnosis), and the rate of PTSD among those veterans was higher than average civilians.
Women veterans may be at more risk than men for development of mental health disorders or substance use disorders as one in five women were found to have suffered military sexual trauma, a blanket category which includes a range of sexual assault and trauma issues. Struggling with such issues often leads women to use illicit drugs or misuse prescription drugs.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also reports that veterans facing multiple deployments or combat were also more likely to engage in binge drinking or heavy drinking or start or relapse to smoking.
Many veterans who have returned to their daily lives struggle with one or more health issues, yet not all will receive care. This is in part because they are unsure how to seek help or the effects of one or more mental health disorders render them unable to reach out. Stigma may also keep veterans from seeking help, as such issues tend to be viewed negatively in society.
This process can be especially difficult on family members of veterans, as substance abuse, addiction, and mental disorders affect the whole family. Addiction can prompt a person to align thinking and action with seeking and using substances, which gets in the way of daily life. With time, veterans may lose jobs, fall behind on payments or rent, or face other personal troubles which negatively impact them and their families.
Even without the occurrence of external factors, like loss of a job or home, veterans struggling with substance abuse or mental health disorders which go untreated may see negative changes to their health. Certain illicit substances can cause dependence, which results in withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening.
Substance abuse and addiction in general also often cause people to neglect their overall health, which can cause sleep disturbances, lack of nutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and dehydration. Other effects or dangers which addiction can cause include increased risk of auto accidents, injuries, or other accidents, legal troubles, and jail time.
The argument for whether the state provides enough help for veterans is dual-sided. On one hand, the state provides ample resources for veterans looking to integrate back into society, which include resources for homelessness, treatment for addiction and mental health, healthcare, and more.
On the other, many believe the state is not doing enough for veterans and leaving them by the wayside after their return from combat or deployment. An article by the Washington Post explains that the federal government has provided increasing help in recent years to help veterans in transition, yet veterans, when polled, did not feel the help is yet adequate.
One of the biggest issues veterans face is barriers to employment. While many in the same poll believed they had the job skills and training necessary to meet job market demands, the reality is that the unemployment rate of veterans has reached 10 percent since 2013, a rate much higher than the civilian rate of 6.9 percent. For many veterans, combat experience and military training are skills which do not carry over into civilian employment.
This issue can create a snowball effect for many veterans and their families—financial struggles, loss of homes, lack of employment, and mental health issues such as anxiety or depression as a result of these struggles may all contribute to substance use disorders or further mental health issues.
While state-funded programs are many, helping veterans is an imperative task which may require an even larger undertaking.
To find mental health treatment through the state for any veteran, first contact the department of Veterans Affairs, local Vet Center, or speak to the veteran’s VA primary healthcare provider.
For veterans who cannot access treatment at VA clinics, or who find local resources to be over-burdened, they may be able to find mental health and addiction treatment programs at a number of private rehab facilities.
Rehab centers offer an array of treatment services, programs, and evidence-based treatment methods as well as secure, private locations in which to heal. For more information on veterans, addiction, and treatment, contact an addiction treatment specialist today.
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