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Substantial Unmet Need for Mental Health Care for Veterans

Lack of awareness about how to connect with Veterans Affairs for mental health care identified

TUESDAY, Feb. 6, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Many veterans are not accessing needed mental health care within or outside the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system, according to a report published by the Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services.

Researchers from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine assembled a committee to assess the ability of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) — to access mental health services.

The researchers note that about half of OEF/OIF/OND veterans who may have a need for mental health care services do not use VA or non-VA mental health care services. In addition, more than half of veterans who have a mental health need do not perceive a need for mental health services. Among OEF/OIF/OND veterans, a lack of awareness about how to connect to the VA for mental health care is pervasive. Many veterans are unaware of how to apply for mental health care benefits, are unsure whether they are eligible, or are unaware of the benefits offered. In addition, the process of accessing VA mental health services has been burdensome and unsatisfactory for many veterans. By focusing on aligning resources to veteran needs, access can be facilitated.

“The VA needs to make high-quality mental health care consistently and predictably available at every facility for all veterans,” committee chair Alicia Carriquiry, Ph.D., from Iowa State University, said in a statement.

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