A recent study with a small sample of veterans trying to recover from mental health issues found that video games can help in overcoming such problems as PTSD and substance abuse disorders.
The researchers concluded that although the impact of video games may vary based on the user, clinicians may wish to discuss video game play with their patients to help them “optimize their use of games to support recovery.”
“Gameplay may promote a mindfulness-like psychological [escape] but can also provide users with benefits of confidence, social connection, personal growth, and opportunities for employment or even leadership,” the researchers wrote. “These benefits are accessible to people with disabilities for whom traditional treatments, leisure activities, or social interactions may be challenged by circumstances or limitations. Games could be implemented in large populations very inexpensively, thus acting as potentially very cost-effective recovery supports or mental health treatments.”
Some of the participants, the researchers also note, described using video games to “distract from overwhelming symptoms, including suicidal thoughts and drug or alcohol use.”
The study included 20 veterans — 15 men and five women — who ranged in age from 25 to 62. Sixteen of the 20 vets reported they had PTSD or trauma-related symptoms. Most of the participants said they had more than one current mental or behavioral health diagnosis, with PTSD and depression being the most common combination. Three people had more than one type of trauma, such as combat — or training-related trauma, military sexual trauma, or childhood sexual abuse.
Dr. Michelle Colder Carras, a public health researcher, led the study, which appeared in November 2018 in the journal Social Science Medicine. With extensive research experience in video game play and in mental health recovery, she interviewed the veterans on the value of the games. (She shares that she’s also played video games herself and has recovered from her own mental health problem.)
In the study, the video game genres included sports, puzzles, gambling, role-player action, fantasy settings, and shooter games. But Colder Carras emphasizes that the genre or specific game isn’t what necessarily helped with recovery. The benefits, she says, stemmed more from the connections the veterans made with other video game players; the distractions they created for themselves by playing the games and removing their focus, for example, from alcohol or drugs; and the meaning they derived from the games.
“Meaning derived from game narratives and characters, exciting or calming gameplay, and opportunities to connect, talk, and lead others were credited as benefits of gaming,” the researchers write. “Responses often related closely to military or veteran experiences. At times, excessive use of games led to life problems or feeling addicted, but some veterans with disabilities felt the advantages of extreme play outweighed these problems.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The war in Afghanistan began in October of 2001 following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Since then, approximately 2,300 American service men and women have fallen in the line of duty while protecting their great country.
The memories of those who died have existed mostly in the hearts of their friends and family — until now.
Navy veteran and two-time USA memory champion Ron White decided to put his unique talents to good use and pay a special tribute to those who died while serving in Afghanistan.
After returning home from Afghanistan in 2007, White began to form the idea of creating a unique tribute as his way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“The general public has no idea the scope of the sacrifice that so many families and heroes made,” White patriotically states.
On Feb. 28, 2013, White began handwriting every single troop’s name he had memorized (including rank, first and last name) in chronological order of their untimely deaths using a white marker — accumulating over 7,000 words.
“Every few hours, somebody will walk by that wall and remind me, this is just not 7,000 words,” White admits. “This is their son or daughter.”
The Texas native’s primary reason for him paying this special tribute is to honor the memories of fallen which he states has made him a better person by learning about all the various stories behind the names — the selfless acts of heroism.
President Donald Trump signed a bill April 19 to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise.
The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early 2018.
The program was scheduled to expire on Aug. 7 with nearly $1 billion left over.
Trump said veterans have “not been taken care of properly” and that the program will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”
“You got it? The doctor of their choice,” he repeated for emphasis.
Shulkin, who attended the bill signing, has said the money is needed to pay for stopgap services while he works on the longer-term plan. He said April 19 that the plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system.
Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.
“It’s this approach where veterans can get care wherever they need it that really is the way that we’re going to address all the needs and honor our commitments to our veterans,” he said after Trump signed the bill.
The Choice Program was put in place after a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months to be scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.
The program is intended to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own.
The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.
Major veterans’ organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.
Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care “at a private service provider of their own choice.”
Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned “quick fix” to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities.
“Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen,” Lucas said. “We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to.”
Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. He said those appointments would have otherwise “lagged” in the VA scheduling system.
More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year.
McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension “sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care.” He said more work is needed, but called the legislation “an important first step.”
Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans’ access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program’s current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and “customer service,” something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.
Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.
Matias Ferreira is a combat Marine who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy on March 24, 2017. Prior to the graduation, he was elected as president of his academy class, and a recruit platoon leader. All of this while walking on two prosthetic legs.
You read that right. Matias Ferreira is a double-amputee.
According to a report by Newsday, Ferreira lost both of his legs after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during the fighting in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.
Ferreira is not the only double amputee serving in law enforcement — PIX11.com reported that one other is serving as a state trooper in the western United States.
Ferreira’s roundabout journey to being a police officer involved playing on a select softball team with other amputees, and a moment of heroism in October 2015.
According to the New York Daily News, the ex-Marine leapt into action with his brother and future father-in-law while leaving his wedding rehearsal to rescue an infant from a burning car.
“Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference,” Ferreira said at the time.
Now, he will do so again. After 29 weeks of intensive training in the gym, the classroom, and the swimming pool, during which Ferreira refused offers of special treatment.
Below is an interview that he did with Fox and Friends. Semper Fi.
Veterans denied basic mental health care service benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs because of an “other than honorable” discharge may soon be able to receive the care they need.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, spearheaded by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican and Marine Corps combat veteran.
“Today, this House sent a critical message to our men and women in uniform,” Coffman said in a release. “That message is that you are not alone. We are here to help those suffering from the ‘invisible’ wounds of war.
“The passage of [this bill] is an important bipartisan effort to ensure that our combat veterans receive the mental health care services they need. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line,” he said.
The legislation, H.R. 918, would require the VA to provide initial mental health assessments and services deemed necessary, including for those at risk of suicide and or of harming others, regardless of whether the individual has an “other than honorable” discharge.
Currently, individuals who have such discharges, known as “bad paper,” are not eligible for veteran benefits beyond some emergency mental health services. Veterans who received a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge would still be ineligible to access the services.
“It’s important that we give all of our combat veterans, irrespective of the discharges they receive, access to mental health care through the Veterans [Affairs Department],” Coffman told Military.com during an interview in February, when he reintroduced the bill.
He is the only House member to serve in both the first Iraq War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At the time, Coffman said of the “bad-paper” separations, “I question the nature of the discharges in the first place, and I’m exploring that.”
The bill applies to those with other-than-honorable discharges who served in a combat zone or area of hostilities; piloted unmanned aircraft; or experienced a military sexual trauma.
The VA secretary can sign off on outside care if specific care at a VA facility is clinically inadvisable; or if the VA is unable to provide necessary mental health care due to geographic location barriers.
H.R. 918 also requires the VA to establish a formal “character of service” determination process, triggering reviews of the “character of discharge” for potential eligibility of VA benefits.
High Ground Veterans Advocacy, a grassroots organization training veterans to become leaders and activists in their local communities, has advocated for the move.
“There are some veterans out there who’ve been waiting for this day for decades — but there’s still a fight ahead of us,” said High Ground founder and chairman Kristofer Goldsmith.
“Until the Senate passes this bill, and the president signs it — some of our nation’s most vulnerable veterans, who served between Vietnam and today’s Forever Wars, are being denied the holistic care that they deserve from the VA,” he said in an email.
Goldsmith continued, “Today, the House recognized that the United States has failed to care for hundreds of thousands of veterans in the way that they deserve — veterans who were administratively discharged and stripped of a lifetime of essential benefits without the right to due process.
“But the problem isn’t yet fixed. Until Congress holds hearings dedicated to looking at the problem of bad-paper discharges, we won’t have all available solutions on the table,” he said.
The video of my Naval Academy classmate, Chris David, beaten by federal police last month in Portland, shook me. Like bad guys from a straight-to-DVD movie, cowardly officers attacked a peaceful American exercising his Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest. David stood unyielding, bearing the blows, earning the nickname ‘Captain Portland’ for his almost superhuman resistance.
Ironically, as police obscured their identity, David wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt for ease of identification, as a veteran. As if the word ‘Navy,’ written boldly across his chest might act as a shield, like Superman’s ‘S’ or Captain America’s star. As someone who’s gotten out of countless tickets by virtue of the Marine Corps sticker on my car, I’d shared the same illusion: My veteran status somehow made me special.
David and I reported aboard the Naval Academy to become midshipmen in July, 1984. After the shearing, the uniform issue and the tearful goodbyes, we swore an Oath:
‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…’
By swearing allegiance to the Constitution and not an individual, such as the president, we bound ourselves only to the American people. Despite the nobility (or naivety) of David’s mission — to remind federal officers of their Oath to the Constitution, his presence at the protest came as a surprise for many Americans who’d dismissed protestors as nothing more than ‘lawless hooligans.’
Yet David, and our class, served the American people faithfully as Navy and Marine Corps officers, unhesitatingly laying our collective asses on the line. We’ve got the scars, both physical and mental—and disability ratings as proof. Because yes, we believe in America.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that David was at the protest. David, along with brother and sister veterans, were there to support not only one another, but to defend the Constitution, and by extension, the American people. It’s what we swore to do. Current leadership may possess the law, but not the will to resist an old Marine, soldier, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman who swore that Oath. Because it’s the Oath that makes us special. Just ask ‘Captain Portland.’
Brian O’Hare is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Corps officer and disabled combat veteran. He’s a former Editor-at-Large for ‘MovieMaker’ magazine and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Brian’s fiction has appeared in ‘War, Literature and the Arts’, ‘Liar’s League, London’, ‘Fresh.ink‘, ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature’ and the ‘Santa Fe Writers Project’. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Instagram/Twitter @bohare13x.
Editor’s note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on WATM do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints or official policies of WATM. To submit your own op-ed, please email Managing Editor Tessa Robinson at Tessa.Robinson@wearethemighty.com.
Victor Medina has an actual video of the moment that changed his life forever. One day, his unit in Iraq was forced to take a detour around its planned patrol route. It was June 29, 2009, and Sgt. 1st Class Medina was the convoy commander that day. After winding through alleyways and small villages around Nasiriyah, his convoy came to a long stretch of open road. That’s when an explosive foreign projectile struck the side of his Humvee.
He was evacuated from the scene and diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, along with the other physical injuries he sustained in the attack. It took him three years of rehabilitation, and his wife Roxana became a caregiver – a role that is only now receiving the attention it deserves.
The footage of the attack in the first 30 seconds of the above video is the moment Sgt. 1st Class Medina was hit by the EFP, a rocket-propelled grenade. There just happened to be a camera rolling on his Humvee in that moment. The TBI that hit Medina affected his balance, his speech, and his ability to walk, among other things.
“It’s referred to as an invisible wound,” Victor says, referring to his traumatic brain injury. “In my case, you can’t see it, but I feel it every day.”
Since 2000, the Department of Defense estimates more than 383,000 service members have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury. These injuries range in severity from ones caused by day-to-day training activities to more severe injuries like the one suffered by Sgt. 1st Class Medina. An overwhelming number of those come from Army personnel. Of the 225,144 traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers, most are mild. But even a moderate injury like Victor’s can require a caregiver for the veteran.
This video is part of a series created by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, highlighting veteran caregivers and the vets they care for. AARP wants to let families of wounded veterans know there are resources and support available through AARP’s Military Caregiving Guide, an incredible work designed to start your family off on the right foot. Some of you reading may not even realize you’re a veteran’s caregiver. Like Victor Medina’s wife Roxana, you may think you’re just doing your part, taking care of a sick loved one.
But like Roxana Delgado, the constant care and support for a veteran suffering from a debilitating injury while caring for the rest of a household, supporting the household through work and school, and potentially caring for children, can cause a caregiver to burn out before they even recognize it’s happening. It took Roxana eight months to realize she was Victor’s full-time caregiver – on top of everything else she does. It began to wear on her emotionally and strain their relationship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina before his deployment to Iraq in 2009.
With AARP’s Prepare to Care guide, veteran caregivers don’t have to figure out their new lives on their own. The guide has vital checklists, charts, a database of federal resources, including the VA’s Caregiver Program. The rest is up to the caregiver. Roxana Delgado challenged her husband at every turn, and he soon rose to the challenge. He wanted to get his wife’s love back.
Before long, Victor was able to clean the house, make coffee in the morning, and generally alleviate some of the burdens of running their home. After 10 years in recovery, Victor Medina has achieved a remarkable level of independence, and together they started the TBI Warrior Foundation to help others with traumatic brain injuries. Roxana is now a health scientist and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow. AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are teaming up to tell these deeply personal stories of caregivers like Roxana because veteran caregivers need support and need to know they aren’t alone.
Creating a sense of community may look different for each of us. While some Americans enjoy the close proximity of city life, those who live in rural areas welcome the less crowded towns and wide open spaces as signs of home.
Although many rural residents enjoy these perks, the very nature of life in rural communities may unintentionally isolate them from others. Rural Veterans often report lower quality of life related to mental health than their urban counterparts, a challenge exacerbated by a lack of qualified specialists or nearby medical facilities.
Mental Health Month is observed each May to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention. Many risk factors disproportionately affect Veterans, especially those in rural communities with shortages of mental health providers.
As the lead advocate for rural Veterans, VA’s Office of Rural Health implements multiple support programs to help improve the health and well-being of rural Veterans. In 2019, ORH focused on eight critical mental health and suicide prevention programs, including:
Rural Suicide Prevention connects Veterans to comprehensive suicide prevention services and resources through enhanced education, public awareness campaigns, community training, crisis support, firearm safety, and care management for high risk individuals.
Vets Prevail Web Based Behavioral Support provides Veterans suffering from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder with tools to overcome these challenges. The program focuses on Veterans returning from recent conflicts, like Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
Military Sexual Trauma Web-Based Therapy uses telehealth to deliver specialized mental health care directly to the homes of Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma.
Clinical Resource Hubs – Telemental Health connects specialists with rural Veterans to ensure access to mental health care services in rural areas.
To find out if these programs and others like them are available in your area, please contact your local VA medical center.
If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online.
News that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attending the ceremony remembering the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack has drawn some interest.
Unfortunately, it also seems to have drawn some advice from White House Spokesman Josh Earnest directed toward veterans of the surprise bombardment.
During a recent press briefing, Earnest said that World War II veterans should “set aside their own personal bitterness” over the unprovoked attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that left 2,403 Americans dead and over a thousand wounded.
Japan has refused to apologize for the attack, which sank or damaged 19 American vessels, including eight battleships and destroyed or damaged over 300 aircraft.
“If I were a World War II veteran who was drafted by the United States military to go and fight for our country overseas in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, I might feel quite embittered. And I think it would be a perfectly natural and understandable human reaction to not be particularly satisfied with the words of the Japanese Prime Minister,” Earnest said during the Dec. 5 briefing.
“There may be some who feel personally embittered,” he added. “But I’m confident that many will set aside their own personal bitterness, not because they’re personally satisfied by the words of the Prime Minister, but because they recognize how important this moment is for the United States.”
Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor, declaring his intent to “mourn the souls of the victims” of the attack. American forces shot down 29 Japanese planes, and sank five midget submarines and one submarine.
Fifteen Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the attack, while 51 received the Navy Cross, four received the Distinguished Service Cross, and 53 received the Silver Star.
It is estimated that 161,000 American military personnel were killed in action while fighting in the Pacific Theater. The war lasted for three years and nine months, with the end taking place when Japan signed surrender documents on board the USS Missouri (BB 63) on Sept. 2, 1945.
If someone told you the only way for you to survive the coming recession unscathed would be to start your own business, would you even know where to begin? Would you be able to afford the startup costs on your own? Can you handle the workload that might come with such a venture? For most people, especially veterans, that answer is no. That’s what startup accelerators are for – access to knowledge, access to capital, mentorship, connections, talent – all these things can be acquired through these programs.
Vets have some unique skills and traits that make them natural entrepreneurs. And that’s why a startup accelerator like Bunker Labs has big plans for those who are ready to take the first steps toward entrepreneurship.
When some of the most powerful brands get together for vets, big things happen.
Veterans are an interesting slice of Americans, especially where entrepreneurship is concerned. Time and again, veterans show they have the work ethic and drive it takes to start their own enterprises. Of the 200,000 separating veterans every year, 25 percent of those are interested in starting their own businesses but only 4.5 percent of those 50,000 vets are actually able to pursue their own entrepreneurial vision. The reason is because starting your own business takes knowledge veterans may not have and capital most definitely do not have.
That’s where a veteran-owned business accelerator can come into play. If you don’t know where to begin but you have a great idea, an accelerator like Bunker Labs is a great place to start. Starting a business isn’t obvious – there’s a lot that goes into it that you will just not know. Bunker Labs is a non-profit startup accelerator for the military-veteran community comprised of veteran volunteers with the tools and resources to help their fellow vetrepreneurs start their business.
Bunker Labs has helped create more than 1,000 veteran jobs in the United States and helped raise some million in startup capital. This accelerator captures the ambition and innovation veterans bring to startups and equips them with knowledge, mentorship, and opportunities they might otherwise not have had access to. There are labs online, labs in-residency for vets, and when the ball really gets rolling, a cadre of CEO vetrepreneurs who are taking their work to the next level. Bunker Labs is even a partner with the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day entrepreneurial workshop which brings together the brightest and most inspiring veteran entrepreneurs to teach and share their lessons learned and best practices.
To get started with Bunker Labs, vets simply have to start with registering for their Launch Labs Online, fill out some quick demographic information and from there you can connect with other new members, find a mentor, engage the Facebook group, and more. After activating your account, you can start taking classes with Bunker Labs right away. The core classes include knowing yourself, knowing your customers, and how to make money. From there, the sky could be the limit.
If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.
Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.
*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.
1. Be the best bartender you can be!
While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.
The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.
2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch
With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.
There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.
Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.
3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio
The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes.Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.
This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.
Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.
4. Dive for buried treasure.
Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.
The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made mental health care treatment available to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges through two new programs.
One service, initiated in 2017, is specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.
The department’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who arrive at the facility with a mental health need.
Former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.
During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.
A second initiative focuses on the implementation of Public Law 115-141. With this implementation, VA notified former service members of the mental and behavioral health care they may now be eligible for and sent out over 475,000 letters to inform former service members about this care.
The letters (sample follows) explained what they may be eligible for, how long they may be able to receive care and how they can get started.
You are receiving this notification because you may be eligible for services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Congress recently passed legislation that allows VA to provide ongoing mental and behavioral health care to certain former service members with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, including those who
Were on active duty for more than 100 days and served in a combat role, or
Experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while serving.
The rate of death by suicide among veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than veterans who use VA care; according to agency mental health officials. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. VA will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.
In 2018, 1,818 individuals with an OTH discharge received mental health treatment, three times more than the 648 treated in 2017.
There was a total of 2,580 former service members with an OTH discharge that received care in 2018 in VHA. Of these, 1,818 received treatment in Mental Health Services. Of the 2,580 service members with OTH discharge, 1,076 had a mental health diagnosis.
Additionally, VA may be able to treat a mental illness presumed to be related to military service. When VA is unable to provide care, VA will work with partner agencies and will assist in making referrals for additional care as needed.
You can call or visit a VA medical center or Vet Center and let them know that you are a former service member with an OTH discharge who is interested in receiving mental health care.
Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.