What’s the Latest News on Mental Health Benefits for Veterans?

S_ul0024-0166Roughly 88% of those who took part in the Wounded Warrior Project’s annual survey have used the VA’s health care in the past, and 77% of the group have a disability rating of 70% or more. That makes them eligible for Veterans Affairs assistance.

Military Times’ recent article entitled “Wounded veterans still struggle to access mental health support: survey” reports that about one in five Wounded Warrior Project members surveyed responded that they have experienced issues getting mental health care. Of that group, 59% say they were not sure what professional mental health care options were available to them, and 66% said they would be embarrassed or ashamed to use those services.

Officials say the new survey from Wounded Warrior Project shows a need for more transition programs focused on women. The report had nearly 18,000 respondents. It also emphasizes the danger of the disconnect between those veterans’ needs and their access to those services. About one in four veterans surveyed said they had suicidal thoughts within the last year.

“Mental health continues to be a critical concern for this population of post-9/11 injured warriors,” said Dr. Melanie Mousseau, vice president of program operations for Wounded Warrior Project.

Because the survey is restricted only to the Wounded Warrior Project members, it is not necessarily reflective of the entire Iraq and Afghanistan War population or all injured veterans. However, officials said the findings do show the trends within the group’s 152,000 members, hinting at obstacles facing disabled veterans throughout the country.

“Our resources need to be targeted on the most impactful efforts, so we need to know where the biggest challenges are,” said Jennifer Silva, chief program officer for the Wounded Warrior Project. “We want to be a partner to everybody who wants to support veterans, whether it’s lawmakers, VA or corporations. Having this data in efforts like this is really important for that.”

Mental health and suicide prevention have been a major focus of VA programming in recent years, but they have had mixed results. Veteran groups have praised the work, but about 17 veterans a day die by suicide— a number that has remained largely constant over the last decade.

Among those surveyed, 78% reported having persistent sleep problems, 75% said they had symptoms of post-traumatic stress and three quarters (74%) reported struggles with depression. While major combat operations have ended overseas, the charity is seeing its membership numbers rise each month.

Roughly 16% said they have filed a disability claim related to injuries for toxic exposure, and about a third (32%) of those said they have been granted a service connection for those health issues.

About 83% of those surveyed said they feel like civilian peers respect their military service. However, only one in 10 said they think those civilians understood the sacrifices and stress of life in the military. Officials said they plan to use the findings to better target upcoming program offerings to veterans’ needs.

Reference: Military Times (Feb. 22, 2022) “Wounded veterans still struggle to access mental health support: survey”

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