Veterans Mental Health Services Essay

Total Length: 1085 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 3

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Veterans experience a variety of mental health problems, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, aggression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (Wooten, 2015). More specifically, statistics indicate that up to 50% of veterans experience PTSD (Institute of Medicine [IOM], 2013). These problems often stem from exposure to combat. Mental health problems among veteran are further compounded by other problems such as financial difficulties, joblessness, marriage problems, social isolation, and homelessness (Smith et al., 2017). These problems are major risk factors for suicide and substance abuse. Indeed, approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day (American Public Health Association [APHA], 2014). This paper focuses on this social justice problem, specifically highlighting the oppression faced by veterans with regards to access to mental healthcare, the ethical dilemmas associated with the problem, and policies enacted to address the problem.

For Veterans, access to mental healthcare remains a major challenge, with veterans in rural areas as well as those facing financial difficulties being the most affected. For instance, reports indicate that 56-87% of military service members undergoing psychological distress following deployment do not get psychological help (APHA, 2014). These are startling figures without a doubt, underscoring the need for improved access to mental healthcare by veterans.

Shortage of mental health providers is one of the main factors that hinder access to mental healthcare by veterans (APHA, 2014).
With shortage of mental health practitioners, veterans often grapple with delay or even cancellation of appointments. In most cases, veterans have to wait for months before seeing a doctor. By the time one receives help, it is often too late. In fact, the problem of delayed appointments is so serious that the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has in the last few years been undergoing extensive changes within its health system in an effort to ensure timely access to quality care.

Access to mental healthcare by veterans is also hindered by the requirements associated with VA benefits. To receive VA health benefits, veterans must have either an honorable or general discharge (APHA, 2014). In other words, only veterans honorably discharged from duty or those who have served actively for not less than two continuous years are eligible for VA benefits. This means that veterans released from duty prior to the end of their call-up period or due to reasons of hardship or disability sustained in the line of duty cannot receive VA health benefits. Therefore, for veterans experiencing financial difficulties, seeking healthcare becomes an overwhelming burden. Other factors that may hinder access to mental healthcare among veterans include stigmatization, insufficient training on evidence-based practice on the part of VA healthcare personnel, as….....

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American Public Health Association (APHA). (2014). Removing barriers to mental health services for Veterans. Retrieved from advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy- database/2015/01/28/14/51/removing-barriers-to-mental-health-services-for-veterans

Chang, B., & Brannen, J. (2015). The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014: Examining graduate medical education enhancement in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Academic Medicine, 90(9), 1196-1198.

Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). (2015). Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans. Retrieved from veterans.asp

Institute of Medicine (IOM). (2013). Returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan: assessment of readjustment needs of veterans, service members, and their families. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

National Association of Social Workers (NASW). (2017). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from

Prosek, E., & Holm, J. (2012). Counselors and the military: when protocol and ethics conflict. Retrieved from protocol-and-ethics-conflict/

Smith, S., Lai, Z., Almirall, D., Goodrich, D., Abraham, K., Nord, K., & Kilbourne, A. (2017). Implementing effective policy in a national mental health reengagement program for veterans. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 205(2), 161-170.

Wooten, N. (2015). Military social work: opportunities for social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 51(1), S6-S25.

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