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States Attempt to Fill Gaps to Help Traumatized Veterans

A staggering share of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been returning home with mental illnesses brought on by their time overseas. But as hundreds of thousands struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, many are going without the help they need, which is prompting several states to step in. State officials say they are trying to bridge what they see as gaps in services provided by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, whose medical centers have been plagued by mismanagement, often face lengthy backlogs and can be located far from rural communities. If veterans with PTSD aren’t treated while their wounds are still raw, it will end up costing not only the veterans and their families, but society, according to state lawmakers and mental health workers. Veterans with PTSD are more likely to be depressed, drink heavily or use drugs, and many have trouble working and maintaining relationships — problems that cost billions of dollars in lost productivity. Starting this year, Texas will give money to nonprofits and private programs that provide treatment to veterans with PTSD and their families. New Hampshire has been training community mental health staff since last summer on how to find veterans and treat their PTSD. And New York is expanding a program that connects service members and veterans with mental health needs in small settings or in activities such as yoga and tai chi. Although state and local governments have long relied on the VA, states have an obligation to veterans, and they need to do more, said Kathryn Power, a regional administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The agency encourages local governments at a minimum to train mental health center staff about military culture, and make sure they know how to help veterans and their families.

Source/more: Pew Charitable Trusts


David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

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