Veterans often face significant challenges after their service that can impact their mental health. These challenges include financial stress, family issues, and physical health problems.
Veterans who do not seek mental health care may have unmet needs. Estimates from the committee’s survey suggest that about 1.7 million OEF/OIF/OND veterans may need mental health services.
Many veterans have a mental health problem but do not seek treatment, even when a physician assesses that they should. Several factors influence this behavior, and the committee’s survey and site visit interviews shed light on some of these barriers and facilitators.
One factor is that some veterans do not perceive a need for treatment, which reflects their beliefs about the nature of mental disorders or a perception that their symptoms are typical. This is not surprising because a positive screener result does not necessarily mean that the individual has a mental disorder. Other factors that appear to affect the likelihood of a veteran perceiving a need for treatment include age, score on the Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help scale, military service status, disability rating, and deployment time. The model regressed perceived need against each of these variables to produce unadjusted odds ratios, which were used to estimate the impact of these factors on the probability that a veteran perceives that she has a mental health problem. Filing a behavioral health VA claim can be demanding, but with proper preparation and resources, you can significantly increase your chances of success. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from VSOs and other qualified professionals for guidance and support throughout the journey. Remember, you are not alone, and the VA is there to help veterans like you who deserve recognition and support for their service-related mental health conditions.
Identifying the Cause
The committee’s survey and site visit interviews revealed a variety of barriers that can prevent veterans from seeking the health care they need. These include VA system factors such as knowledge of eligibility and understanding how the VA is organized, access factors such as distance to services and availability of providers, personal factors such as attitudes toward mental health treatment, concerns about confiscating firearms, employment worries, and competing demands.
For example, the survey found that many veterans who screen positive for a mental health care need and are not using mental health services do not perceive the need for professional help. This is consistent with findings from a 2016 report of the congressionally appointed Commission on Care that a large number of OEF/OIF/OND-era veterans are not in service due to a regulatory bar related to an unhonorable discharge (Swords to Plowshares, 2016).
Additionally, those who have a perceived need for care and do use VA services reported that they are satisfied with the availability of mental health care and the quality of treatment. However, those who screen positive and do not use the VA indicated that they are unlikely to use mental health services in the future, even if they perceive a need for them.
Identifying Treatment Options
Among those who screen positive for mental health care needs, a substantial proportion may not seek treatment. This is partly because they do not perceive that they need mental health treatment or may believe that such treatment is not practical.
On the other hand, many veterans in this group are juggling multiple responsibilities, such as jobs, families, and school. They may have difficulty getting time off work to see a provider or finding childcare. Some may also be skeptical about the effectiveness of psychological treatment and are unwilling to spend the money on it.
The committee surveyed VA users and non-users of mental health services about their attitudes toward seeking professional psychological help. Those who use the VA for their care report higher satisfaction with the availability of psychiatrists and nurse practitioners than those who do not. However, in many sites where the committee conducted interviews with veterans, transportation can be a significant barrier to accessing mental health services.
When employees are dealing with issues such as depression or substance abuse, they must get the proper care. Behavioral health is more than just mental health; it’s about their daily habits and how they affect their overall well-being.
The committee’s survey showed that, on average, veterans who use VA behavioral health services are satisfied with the availability of those services. Those who reported high levels of depression and PTSD were more likely to be dissatisfied with access to some types of behavioral health services.
However, the results of our survey suggest that a substantial number of veterans who need behavioral health services do not seek care. This is evident when looking at the hypothetical responses of current VA behavioral health users to our question on future use. As Table 6-30 shows, nearly two-thirds of those who indicate a potential need for behavioral health services said they would be somewhat or very likely to use them.