Prioritizing the Healing of Post-Military Veterans

Prioritizing the Healing of Post-Military Veterans

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Friday, September 5, 2014 - 9:00am


While catching up on some reading over the Labor Day weekend, one article from Senator Julie Lassa (24th District in northern Wisconsin), caught my eye. She reminded us that not all combat injuries are the kind you can see and that psychological factors often represent a tremendous hurdle for veterans as they attempt to make the transition back to civilian life.

She points out that behavioral issues can lead to run-ins with the law. “Some veterans try to self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs, which can make the problems worse. Mental illness can also contribute to higher rates of both unemployment and homelessness among veterans compared to the general population. Tragically, it also contributes to 22 veteran suicides a day nationally.”

Lassa shared staggering statistics:

- More than 103,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD

- More than 253,000 sustained traumatic brain injuries

- Some estimate that 14 to 16 percent of veterans suffer from PTSD - twice the general population

- Many veterans also suffer from depression, substance abuse and other disorders

In Wisconsin, Lassa pointed to a Mental Health Summit that took place on Aug. 20, 2014, at the Tomah VA Medical Center, that brought together key stakeholders to discuss ways to help veterans access mental health services.

One good place to start with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255, press 1). You’ll can also get immediate help via confidential online chat at, or by texting a message to 838255.

Stakeholders at the Summit also discussed resources for veterans with criminal offenses that could be a result of service-related health issues, such as PTSD or traumatic brain injury. One great resource available to all veterans is the Veterans Defense Program (VDP) from the New York State Defenders Association. This program, sponsored in part by VetsBridge, offers backup services to public defense lawyers and others to assist justice-involved veterans in criminal and family court cases.

While the mental health impact of warfare can present tremendous challenges to our vets and to our communities, the good news coming out of the Summit and events like it throughout the country,  is that the right kind of help can assist all of our vets make a better transition to civilian life. Given the tremendous sacrifices they and their families have made on our behalf, we owe them nothing less.


Barbara Hernandez, APR
+1 (608) 235-1623
BCH OnPoint