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The Transition House Blog

Overcoming the odds for veterans

Posted by Jennifer Dellasanta on Jan 2, 2015 8:00:00 AM

The statistics out there can be overwhelming. 

There are big numbers when it comes to the statistics that surround mental health and substance abuse that goes untreated for veterans. From the number of veterans dealing with these issues to the numbers that stand for those veterans who are dealing with issues that go untreated every day.


untreated substance abuse for veterans

First, we thought it would be interesting to share the numbers that relate to the amount of veterans that either don't know how to apply for the benefits that are rightly theirs or are unaware of the services available to them. The Department of Veteran Affairs released the National Survey of Veterans in 2011, and these numbers represent the main reason veterans are not applying for VA benefits or services:

  • 66.2 percent of veterans don’t have a service-connected disability.

  • 32.3 percent simply don’t know how to apply.

  • 42.3 percent are unaware of the benefits.

  • 36.6 percent don’t know about programs related to the issues they are facing.

According to WhiteHouse.gov, veterans are facing serious issues:

  • One in eight active duty military personnel are current users of illicit drugs.

  • 60 percent of the 140,000 veterans in Federal and state prisons struggle with substance abuse, with 25 percent reported being under the influence at the time of their offense.

  • $541.7 million dollars in Federal funding was requested for veterans’ treatment programs in the 2012 fiscal year. 

And The National Council for Behavioral Health reports:

  • Less than 50 percent of returning veterans in need receive any mental health treatment.

  • Of those receiving care, only 30 percent get Evidence-Based care. 

But the statistics don't stop there. The numbers that might surprise you most are from the American Psychological Association and really tell the story of struggling veterans and their families today:

  • Recent veterans are more likely to be unemployed than their civilian counterparts. According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in October 2011, veterans who left military service in the past decade have an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent, well above the overall jobless rate of 9.1 percent

  • Of the 1.7 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 300,000 (20 percent) suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression (RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, Invisible Wounds of War, 2008). The Department of Veterans Affairs also estimates that nearly 13,000 of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have alcohol dependence syndrome (2009). In a survey of all veterans, 7.1 percent (1.8 million people) meet criteria for a substance abuse disorder (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004-2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007).

  • According to the Army, only 40 percent of veterans who screen positive for serious emotional problems seek help from a mental health professional (Mental Health Advisory Team IV: Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2007). Statistics from the RAND Corporation are even worse, finding that only 30 percent of veterans with PTSD or depression seek help from the VA health system (Invisible Wounds of War, 2008).

  • The Army recognizes that stigma is a major barrier for veterans in need of mental health care (Mental Health Advisory Team IV, 2007). According to SAMHSA, service members frequently cite fear of personal embarrassment, disappointing comrades, losing the opportunity for career advancement, and dishonorable discharge as motivations to hide symptoms of mental illness from family, friends and colleagues (2007).

  • VA data indicates that 22 percent of veterans receive their mental health care outside the VA system. (2005) The percentage varies from state to state, with the rural states having the greatest percentage of veterans who get care outside the system (McClatchy Newspapers, Feb. 9, 2007).

  • Veterans with untreated mental health problems may face severe consequences to their overall health and ability to fully reintegrate into their communities, exacerbating the potential for chronic mental health conditions. Therefore, failure to intervene early and effectively could have profound long-term costs for the health of this generation of veterans, as well as for society (Testimony by the Wounded Warrior, 2009).

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Topics: Substance Abuse, Help for Veterans

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The Transition House is a behavioral health organization serving the public in Florida and Tennessee.

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