Category Veterans

Despite VA Benefits and Disability Coverage, Jennifer Struggles to Get the Care She Needs

Although Jennifer remembers “just not feeling right” in high school and telling a teacher that she wanted to die, she wasn’t diagnosed with major depression until she was nearly 30. An unrelated medical disability required her release from the Navy, and a car accident shortly thereafter further complicated Jennifer’s physical health and depression. In constant pain, she often wondered if her life would ever get better. At a couple of dark points, the possibility of taking her life became a concern. Jennifer sought emergency help at the VA and was hospitalized in the psychiatric ward.

“I was the only female up there,” Jennifer recalls. She describes the situation as “scary” for a woman, grouped with men whose issues run the gamut from alcohol abuse to serious mental illness. For those in the VA hospital’s psychiatric ward, she says, “They don’t have separate treatment.”

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Coaching Into Care—VA Mental Health Coaching Service for Family and Friends of Veterans

steven_johnBy Steven Sayers, Ph.D. and John DeVincent, Psy.D.

This Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, Coaching Into Care (CIC) would like to recognize that our country’s Service Members and Veterans have given much to our country. Their families have also served and sacrificed by supporting them, caring for family when they were deployed, and helping them start new lives when they leave active duty. We are grateful for their courage and strength.

Recognizing the role of the family
Family members play an important role in supporting Veterans when they are in need of help, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has resources to assist them through an innovative program called Coaching Into Care (CIC). Celebrating its third year, this free and confidential VA helpline helps callers discover new ways to talk with a Veteran about their concerns and treatment options. The program’s mission is to educate, support, and empower family members and friends who are seeking care or services for a Veteran, with an end goal of encouraging distressed Veterans to successfully access VA care anywhere in the United States.

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Coaching Into Care: VA Coaches Help Supporters of Veterans Make the Tough Decision to Get Help

Amber Walser, Psy.D.

According to The Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 30 percent of Veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 who have been treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Read about an innovative VA program that assists loved ones and friends who want to learn how to better support the Veteran in their life and encourage him or her to seek professional support.

Providing tools to support veterans
Judy, the girlfriend of an Army Veteran, called Coaching Into Care (CIC) with concerns about the combat stress and alcohol misuse her boyfriend was experiencing and the toll it was taking on their relationship. Her boyfriend would acknowledge the need for treatment but wouldn’t follow through, and they were quickly growing apart. A CIC call responder provided support and education about combat stress and encouraged Judy to take things slowly rather than to fix everything right away. Then, the call responder prepared Judy for the coaching process, which would connect Judy with a psychologist or social worker with whom she would speak over the phone during the coming weeks or months.

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Veterans Mental Health Stories Brought to Life through Artistic Stage Production

erasing-the-distance-logo-1This is the fourth in our series honoring Veterans during the month of November. In this post, we explore the innovative work being done by the theatrical troupe Erasing the Distance. Founded by Brighid O’Shaoughnessy the current production running in Chicago, brings voices to Veterans living with mental health conditions that were brought on while serving our country in the wars and conflicts of the last 50 years.

Raising the Curtain on Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) is a major mental health concern for our country’s Veterans and their families. According to the National Center for PTSD, PTSD occurs in approximately:

  • 11-20% of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom) Veterans
  • 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans
  • 30% of Vietnam Veterans

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What Are the Barriers Preventing Veterans from Receiving Quality Mental Health Care?

tom_berger

Thomas J. Berger
Ph.D., Executive Director of the Veterans Health Council for Vietnam Veterans of America

CFYM continues our series examining the state of mental health care provided in VA hospitals and centers. In today’s post Tom Berger, Executive Director of the Veterans Health Council for Vietnam Veterans of America examines whether or not the VA is meeting its own policies outlining how long a vet should wait to receive a mental health evaluation.

First, we must recognize that the Veterans Health Administration (VA) has made some significant progress in its efforts to improve the quality of mental health care for America’s veterans. For example, although not all mental health clinical staff has yet been trained, VA should be commended for its system-wide adoption (finally) of evidence-based cognitive behavioral treatment modalities for PTSD. In addition, the development of various web-based program applications and social media mental health outreach campaigns reflect a much better effort to reach America’s veterans. But while these efforts are laudable, there are reasons to believe they have not gone far enough, especially when accessing the VA mental health diagnoses and treatment programs.

As far back as April 2012, an Inspector General (IG)’s report concluded that the VA does not have a reliable or accurate method of determining whether they are providing veterans timely access to mental health care services and that the VA is unable to make informed decisions on how to improve the provision of mental health care to veteran patients due to the lack of meaningful access data. This is absolutely unacceptable

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Can Embracing the Recovery Model Lead to Better Mental Health Treatment Outcomes for Veterans?

Today, we continue to honor our veterans with a personal story from CFYM reader Toni Ankrom, U.S Navy, Retired.  Recognizing the impact peer support had in her own life, Toni pays it forward by advocating for access to quality mental health care for Veterans and challenges mental health organizations to continue to embrace the Recovery treatment model. 

I am a Gulf War Era retired, disabled Navy Veteran. I spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy. During ten of those active duty years I lived with bipolar disorder symptoms. I experienced most of the symptoms of hypomania and some of mania. I would stay awake for many days on end…energy, energy, energy…fast, fast, fast, with unusual creative thinking. These episodes were followed by the darkest depression which my wonderful husband helped me through – over and over again. The military finally treated the depression with medication calling it “situational depression” and ignored the mania because I could work and work like the Energizer Bunny. I was very lucky to have such a supportive husband. He made sure I got up, showered, ate, and looked presentable for duty. I have to say that I didn’t feel presentable.  I wanted to crawl into a closet and cover up with a blanket.

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Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Post 9/11 Veterans

Ralph IbsonBy Ralph Ibson, National Policy Director, Wounded Warrior Project

Care For Your Mind is honoring all veterans with a series of posts examining policy issues and advocacy projects around access to quality mental health care. In this first post, Ralph Ibson, National Policy Director, Wounded Warrior Project shares his views on the treatment options available to post 9/11 veterans through the VA health care system.

Efforts to provide a continuum of care to veterans

With high percentages of post-9/11 veterans now experiencing war-related mental health problems, the VA health care system faces a generational challenge. As Dr. Charles Hoge, a leading researcher in the field described it, “veterans remain reluctant to seek care, with half of those in need not utilizing mental health services. Among veterans who begin PTSD treatment with psychotherapy or medications, a high percentage drop out…with only 50% of veterans seeking care and a 40% recovery rate, current strategies will effectively reach no more than 20% of all veterans needing PTSD treatment.”

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