Goldberg says increased investment in mental health care, screening and outreach may have helped. The Department of Defense’s universal post-deployment mental health screening is one example, along with efforts within VHA including educational public health initiatives, enhanced eligibility for benefits amongst post-9/11 veterans, the VHA suicide prevention hotline, mobile health resources and the integration of mental health services into VHA primary care settings.
“When veterans are coming back from deployment, the VHA and Department of Defense does a lot of screening,” he says. “They’re attentive to mental health as part of the veteran experience and are working to connect veterans with the necessary treatment when they’re back.”
Goldberg's paper concludes that the difference in treatment delay may reflect these efforts to engage recent veterans in mental health care. He suggests that universally low initiation of treatment for alcohol use disorder may require further efforts given rates were low among all groups. One challenge is that many individuals who meet criteria for alcohol use disorder may not be aware of it or not view it as a problem.
Future work will look to see if veteran status reduces racial disparities in treatment seeking.
- Sara Ifert