The state of California has the largest population of veterans of the armed forces in the nation. There are an estimated 2,078,267 veterans in California. Boosting California’s veteran population are the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom—OEF) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom—OIF). Since September 2001, California deployed 148,028 troops, with 22,305 troops from California deployed as of February 29, 2008. The number of National Guard and Reserve Troops deployed from California since September 2001 is an estimated 31,821.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment in the VA
The Veterans Administration (VA) offers a range of treatments and services to improve the mental health of Veterans. For Veterans with serious mental illness, VA offers care is tailored to help with their specific problem and to promote recovery. Care can include schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders (drugs or alcohol, or illegal substances). For more information on mental health care, including substance use disorder, download the Guide to VA Mental Health Services.
With the increased veteran population comes the added need for more accessible alcohol and other drugs (AOD) services for those with, and at risk for, substance abuse disorders. Veterans returning home from OEF and OIF present a larger incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and associated substance abuse than those from any previous conflicts. Research indicates that up to 30 percent of OEF/ OIF veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. Mental health issues, in particular those with co-occurring substance abuse disorders, are not easily diagnosed and often surface long after the service member's post-deployment coverage and eligibility for health care ends.
Recently, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expanded benefits for the National Guard and Reserve members. Veterans that deploy and return with any type of mental or physical health condition may receive up to 5 years of treatment either free or with co-pay. Substance abuse, PTSD, and TBI are treated free of charge.
There are, however, some factors that may present barriers to service members in need of services. One reason is the VA has a major challenge with providing VA benefits. Currently, there is an untreated backlog of 400,000 cases. In addition, treatment facilities may be located very far from veterans’ homes, making it logistically challenging to access services.
ADP will be posting information on the following veteran issues:
- Post-Deployment Stress
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Substance Abuse
- Family Issues