The crucial issue for evidence-based substance use and mental health care for veterans is more important than ever before due to the considerable number of veterans returning from combat missions who have experienced episodes of PTSD and other mental health conditions. More than 1.5 million of the 5.5 million veterans seen in VA hospitals had a substance use disorder or mental health diagnosis in 2016. This represents about a 31% increase since 2004.

While Military Health System, Veterans Health Administration, and community/private systems are innovating to improve their treatment and services, issues with mental health care access and quality persist. Shortages of trained, culturally competent clinicians; driving distance; and perceptions about the consequences of seeking care may make present obstacles for veterans, service members, and family members in accessing mental health and substance use disorder care. - (

  • According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2.1 million veterans received mental health treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the five year period from 2006 through 2010. A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that only 50 percent of returning vets who need veteran mental health treatment will receive these services.

  • A 2018 report of mental health care for veterans found that the mental health workforce had insufficient capacity to address the needs of service members:

    • In addition, the study found that the existing workforce lacked sufficient training in evidence-based practices, and there were inadequate organizational systems and tools to support mental health quality improvements.

    • Veterans from rural communities are at a particular disadvantage as they face challenges such as limited options for assessment and treatment, and providers’ lack of awareness