Military service members and veterans who return home after serving U.S. citizens may struggle to reintegrate back into normal life smoothly.
This is due to a range of factors, including financial stressors, coping from traumatic events, a loss of community with other service members, and more.
The state offers many programs designed to ease this transition. Services within the realms of housing, mental health, and substance abuse treatment are all available to veterans to use.
Resources For Housing
Veterans may face homelessness, difficulty financing their homes, and other issues with housing after reintegration. The following programs can help to offer financial and housing assistance.
Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD)
According to research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), nearly 50,000 American veterans are homeless.
To address this issue, the Veterans Administration (VA) offers annual funds to organizations and community agencies that provide services to homeless veterans.
The goals of this program are to help homeless veterans:
- get residential stability
- increase their skill levels and/or income
- obtain greater self-determination
Veterans may receive supportive housing for up to 24 months, after which they’ll receive assistance finding other housing.
The program has two levels of funding: the grant component and the per diem component.
Grant funding may be used to build or repair properties used for services, but it cannot be used for operational costs.
Per diem funds are also given to grant recipients and may be used to cover the costs of housing a veteran. The maximum amount that may be used is $49.91 per day per veteran.
Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program (HCHV)
HCHV services provide community-based residential treatment, housing, and other programs to assist homeless veterans.
The HCHV program aims to reduce veteran homelessness through outreach.
HCHV provides the following services:
- The Contract Residential Treatment program is supportive housing for those with serious mental health concerns.
- Contract Emergency Residential Services (CERS) target those transitioning from homelessness, discharged from institutions, and those who recently became homeless.
- Low Demand Safe Havens (LDSH) provide six months or more of supportive housing for veterans with mental illness and/or substance use problems.
As of 2020, HCHV programs gained 310 contracts with over 3,500 available beds in the U.S.
Case management services are available with HCHV, helping veterans to find housing, clinical, and social support services.
Enhanced-Use Lease Program (EUL)
The Enhanced-Use Lease program (EUL) leases land and buildings to qualifying private entities for supportive housing and related projects for homeless and at-risk veterans.
A few of the services and amenities available to veterans with EUL include:
- job training
- financial management assistance
- free haircuts
- community gardens and playgrounds
- computer and technology centers
- laundry facilities
- community recreational rooms
- fitness centers
- support groups
- senior companion programs
The housing centers prioritize veterans and are placed near medical facilities for proper access to healthcare services.
Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF)
The Supportive Services for Veteran Families program works to quickly house homeless veterans and provide necessary services to those who are low-income and are at risk of losing their homes.
Case management services help with securing VA benefits, securing educational and financial aid, and more.
SSVF helps veterans to find more suitable living arrangements to prevent them from losing their home or getting evicted.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development—VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)
This is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the VA combining HUD vouchers and VA supportive services.
As of 2020, the HUD-VASH program gave away 100,570 subsidized housing vouchers, helping 80,000 veterans and their families to find permanent housing.
Here’s how it works:
- A veteran receives a rental assistance voucher for privately owned housing.
- Next, the VA connects the veteran with services such as health care, mental health treatment, and substance use counseling.
- The individual will receive support in their recovery process and assistance maintaining housing in their community.
Social Security Administration (SSA)
The SSA has benefits available for veterans and people experiencing homelessness.
Homeless veterans can find information on social security benefits, how to access those benefits when they’re using a supportive housing program, and other resources that may help.
SAMHSA Homelessness Programs And Resources
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides several programs and resources for those experiencing homelessness and their families.
SAMHSA-funded programs for veterans include:
- grant programs and services: These funds support behavioral health treatment, increasing access to disability income benefits for eligible homeless adults.
- mental and substance use disorders resources: SAMHSA has a database of information on housing and shelter, case management, trauma, employment, and more.
Resources For Employment
The state provides several resources to help veterans prepare for, secure, and sustain employment.
Employment Services For Homeless Veterans
The VA provides the following employment opportunities to homeless veterans:
- Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services (HVCES): This program gives veterans vocational assistance, job development and placement, and ongoing support.
- Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Program: Three services help veterans to return to employment: sheltered workshop, transitional work, and supported employment.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program: Helps veterans with service-connected disabilities to find and keep suitable jobs.
With these programs, a veteran will be connected with trained VA staff members who will conduct screenings and assessments.
Veterans can get on-the-job training, apprenticeships, unpaid work experience, and more.
VA Individual Unemployability
If you’re unable to work because of a service-connected disability, you may qualify for VA Individual Unemployability.
Individual Unemployability qualifies veterans for the same level of disability compensation or benefits as veterans with a 100% disability rating.
To be eligible for disability benefits, you must:
- have at least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling, or two or more service-connected disabilities (with a combined rating of 70% or more)
- be unable to maintain financially supportive employment (substantially gainful employment) because of your service-connected disability
If eligible, you may receive health care and compensation benefits.
Resources For Mental Health Treatment
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides many services for U.S. veterans in over 1,200 health care facilities.
Currently, there are over nine million veterans enrolled in the VA health care program, and over 1.7 million veterans received mental health services through the VA in 2020.
Review the options below to learn about the available programs and methods of treatment available to you during your reintegration process.
Find A Mental Health Clinic
If you already receive health benefits from the VA, speak with your primary care provider about your options and set up an appointment with a VA mental health provider.
If you’re not yet set up with VA health benefits, you can reach out to a VA medical center or Vet Center near you to discuss mental health treatment options.
To ease this process, the VA organizes its network of health providers with this locator tool.
The VA provides free individual and group counseling for combat veterans and their families. These services can be accessed with or without enrollment in VA healthcare.
Some of the services provided at Vet Centers include:
- military sexual trauma (MST) counseling
- readjustment counseling
- bereavement counseling
- employment counseling
- substance abuse assessment and referral
Seek Peer Support
The VA can connect you with someone from a BeThere peer assistance program.
In partnership with Military OneSource, this program connects veterans with peer coaches who are veterans, current service members, or military spouses.
The following groups can find peer support through BeThere:
- service members
- family members
- transitioning veterans up to 365 days after separation or retirement
Not everyone has the ability to go to a health center in person. For veterans who need virtual treatment, there are several telehealth options to choose from.
Veteran Training Portal
This is an online self-help portal that helps veterans better manage everyday life problems with proven mental health practices.
The free tool helps to manage anger, develop problem-solving skills, work on parenting skills, and more.
The VA Telemental Health Program
Get mental health treatment from anywhere with this telehealth program.
If already enrolled in VA health benefits, speak with your primary care provider about connecting you with a local VA mental health clinic with telehealth options.
You may also search for a health facility on your own. Reach out to the health center to get started with telehealth treatment.
The VA partnered with the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop 28 free mental health apps available in the Apple Store and Google Play.
You can use these apps to help you quit smoking or using substances, manage your stress, and much more.
A few of the free apps offered through the VA and DoD include:
- The Mindfulness Coach App: Aids in practicing mindfulness, or focusing on the present moment.
- The Virtual Hope Box (VHB): This app contains tools to help veterans with coping, relaxation, distraction, and positive thinking.
- Life Armor: This is a comprehensive tool with resources on 17 topics, including sleep, depression, anger, relationship issues, substance use, and PTSD.
- The PE Coach App: The app allows veterans to work with a mental health professional during prolonged exposure therapy, tracking progress, appointments, and symptoms.
- Sleep Bug: This is a white noise machine for sleep.
Note: None of these apps is intended to be a substitute for professional therapy. These are helpful tools you may use on your own, but be sure to see a therapist if further treatment is necessary.
Resources For Addiction Treatment
Many veterans face substance use disorders (SUD) during their deployment and/or after returning home.
Though the issue is prevalent — about one in 15 veterans have had a past year substance use disorder — addiction is very treatable for veterans who are reintegrating into society.
Here are some of the addiction treatment options and resources offered by the state.
Therapy And Counseling For Veterans
With help from the VA, veterans can receive addiction counseling and therapy. The spouses and family members of veterans abusing substances can also find therapy programs that can help.
Some of the counseling and therapy options include:
- short-term outpatient counseling
- marriage counseling
- family counseling
- self-help groups
The VA provides specialized programs for different demographics of veterans, such as women veterans, returning combat veterans, and homeless veterans.
Substance Abuse Rehab Programs
Structured treatment is also available for veterans overcoming substance abuse.
Rehab programs offered through the VA include:
- detoxification: Available to provide medically monitored detox and to ease the symptoms of withdrawal.
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Veterans addicted to opioids and other drugs can get medications to help with withdrawal (buprenorphine and methadone, for example).
- standard outpatient programs (OP): These programs provide ambulatory services alone or in conjunction with other services.
- intensive outpatient programs (IOP): IOP programs involve at least three hours of treatment services for at least three days per week.
- combined PTSD/SUD services: PTSD is a special concern among veterans, so this program specializes in co-occurring substance use disorders and PTSD.
- residential treatment: Long-term residential care is for those who require 24-hour care.
- inpatient treatment: Inpatient programs involve 24-hour in-hospital care shorter in duration than a residential program.
- continuing care and relapse prevention: Programming designed to prevent relapse and maintain sobriety after treatment.
Other Resources For Veteran Reintegration
In addition to services and programs provided by the VA, a number of federal agencies and national organizations provide resources for veterans and their families.
These resources help veterans and families to integrate back into society and provide ongoing support.
Federal and state resources include:
- Department of Labor (DOL): provides access to resources and services which help veterans with employment
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): offers services such as access to healthcare for all Americans, including veterans
- National Resources Directory: this tool gives veterans resources for support and services that aid in recovery, rehabilitation, and re-integration
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): this program helps those who face homelessness by providing food, shelter, and other supportive services
- National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA): this organization ensures the VA provides equal and effective services in all 50 states
Veterans may also find support through multiple national organizations, such as:
- American Legion
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
- Grace After Fire
- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
- Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
- Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN)
- Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
- Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)
Additional resources, services, and programs for veterans in the U.S.:
- American Bar Association’s Commission on Homelessness & Poverty
- Community Pillar portal on Zillow
- free legal aid programs
- risk-mitigation funds for veteran housing
- 2-1-1 call center
For more information on all listed resources for veterans, including state-funded and others, visit the VA website.
Challenges Veterans Face With Reintegration
Researchers have identified key influences of individual, interpersonal, community, and societal factors that can either facilitate or challenge a veteran’s successful reintegration.
The biggest challenge veterans face is the issue of coping with life stressors. These stressors can be anything from substance abuse to homelessness, and play a major role in reintegration.
Veterans And Suicide
Veterans experience a disproportionate rate of suicide as compared to civilians. Data spanning 2008 to 2017 found that more than 6,000 veterans die by suicide each year.
And in 2017, the suicide rate for veterans was 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults. Because of these alarming numbers, suicide prevention is a top priority for veteran reintegration.
Though over 1.7 million veterans received treatment in a VA mental health program in 2018, much is still to be done to serve the veteran population as they reintegrate.
Veterans And Mental Health Issues
According to a study published by the NCBI, many veterans deal with severe psychological stress and mental illness after returning home.
The most common mental illnesses among veterans are:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- major depression
Veterans may become disabled or severely injured during combat. They might also come in contact with hazardous materials, chemicals, contaminated water, and other dangers.
These physical and mental health implications, in addition to the emotional turmoil of being away from loved ones and witnessing war scenes, can be extremely stressful for service members.
In addition, veterans are engulfed in a community with cultural values of customs, ethos, selfless duty, codes of conduct, communication patterns, and obedience to command.
Reintegrating into a society that doesn’t necessarily uphold those values can be a major culture shock for veterans.
Veterans And Substance Abuse
According to 2013 data, there are 1.5 million veterans aged 17 or older who have a substance use disorder. That’s 6.6% of the entire U.S. population.
Any of the issues listed above (anxiety, suicidal thoughts or behavior, PTSD, etc.) can contribute to the surmounting number of veterans who return home and develop problems with substances.
The most common co-occurring disorder that causes or exacerbates substance abuse is PTSD.
Research published on the VA website reveals that:
- two out of 10 veterans with PTSD also have a SUD
- veterans with PTSD are twice as likely to smoke
- veterans who live with PTSD often binge drink
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that zero-tolerance policies and lack of confidentiality may greatly discourage service members and veterans from getting treatment.
Veterans tend to deal with severe pain, leading to opioid abuse. In addition, drinking, smoking, and illicit drug use also tend to increase for veterans returning home.
Barriers To Mental Health Treatment For Veterans
Even though veterans experience very real trauma and mental health concerns, many still face barriers to getting treatment.
One study found the following information about veterans who had a mental health concern but didn’t use VA services:
- 33% didn’t know that VA offered mental health services
- 42% didn’t know how to apply for VA mental health benefits
- 40% didn’t think they were “entitled to or eligible for” mental health services from the VA
- 30% “did not feel they deserved” to receive mental health care from the VA
In addition, many respondents didn’t realize they could access mental health benefits because they weren’t combat veterans and therefore didn’t consider themselves veterans.
VA benefits are there to serve all duty members, not strictly combat veterans.
The researchers who conducted the study concluded that veterans need sufficient information on mental health services in order to benefit from and use them.
Helping Veterans To Reintegrate Into Society
A combination of employment, housing, mental health, and substance abuse tools must be offered to veterans to ensure their success post-service.
While many of these services are communicated to service members and veterans, not everyone is aware of their options.
Knowing the resources available and how to access them is important in improving the physical and mental health of veterans returning home after their service.Article Sources
- North Carolina Governor's Working Group — FREE MENTAL HEALTH SMARTPHONE APPS FOR VETERANS
- Social Security Administration — People Experiencing Homelessness and Their Service Providers
- Social Security Administration — Veterans
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — Homelessness Programs and Resources
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — 1 IN 15 VETERANS HAD A SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER IN THE PAST YEAR
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — Enhanced-Use Lease (EUL)
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — Homeless Fact sheet
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — VA Homeless Programs
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — VA Individual Unemployability if you can't work
- VA Mental Health Services — VA Services for Patients with Substance Use Disorders (SUD)