Honoring our Commitment to Military Veterans
hon·or: 1. to regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect: to regard or treat with honor
2. to live up to or fulfill the terms of i.e.honor a commitment (Merriam-Webster, 2022).
Veterans Day 2022
November 11, 2022, is Veterans Day. The theme for Veterans Day 2022 is “Honor”. This theme reflects the military value of answering the call to duty and the distinct honor the military take in protecting America as well as the honor that is owed them for serving their country (Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, 2022). Regarding and treating individuals with admiration, dignity, and respect and fulfilling our commitments to them are practices that are embedded in evidence-based substance use prevention and treatment programs. In November, prevention and treatment providers have the opportunity to recommit to honoring veterans. Through collaboration, training, and the utilization of available resources organizations can learn more about the prevention and treatment needs of veterans and how to honor and serve this population.
Veterans and Substance Use Disorders
According to the estimates presented for veterans in the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report (NSDUH), more than 5 million veterans had a substance use disorder (SUD) and/or mental illness in 2020 (SAMHSA, 2022). The NSDUH image below illustrates past year estimates for 2020 showing that almost three-quarters of veterans with SUD struggled with alcohol use, one in three veterans with mental illness experienced serious mental illness, and 1.1 million veterans had both a SUD and mental illness (SAMHSA, 2022.)
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lists additional risk factors related to SUDs that impact veterans and their health. These risk factors include trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and injury, suicide risk, and homelessness (NIDA, 2019). The demands of the military environment, stigma, viewing a need for treatment as a sign of weakness, fear of loss of benefits, lack of knowledge about SUD and treatment resources, and a lack of resources in certain rural areas are challenges that may prevent veterans and their families from accessing services (Teeters et al., 2017).
Service Members and Veterans Technical Assistance
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) developed the Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance (SMVF TA) Center to serve as a national resource to support states, territories, and local communities in strengthening their capacity to address the behavioral health needs of military and veteran families. SMVF TA provides key resources that address the behavioral health needs of service members, veterans, and their families. The Technical Assistance Tools for Action includes toolkits, resource directories, and other essential resources developed in collaboration with The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, The Department of Defense, and The Department of Veterans Affairs.
Cultural Awareness and Community Collaboration
As with other special populations, military service members, their families, and veterans have unique needs that require a culturally competent approach to services and treatment. A component of honoring veterans is to acquire specific knowledge and skills to care for current and former service members and their families (SAMHSA, 2022). Utilizing available resources, collaborating with service-related organizations, providing outreach, and disseminating information are all components of providing culturally competent services to veterans. There are several resources to assist with community collaboration, information dissemination, and the development of programs that are culturally competent and appropriate for veteran populations.
Community Provider Toolkit
The Community Provider Toolkit is a resource for healthcare professionals working with Veterans outside of the Veterans Administration healthcare system. The toolkit provides information and tools relevant to the mental health and well-being of veterans, compiled specifically for community providers.
Peer Specialist Toolkit: Implementing Peer Support Services in VHA - MIRECC / CoE
The Peer Specialist Toolkit provides organizations with assistance in integrating veteran peer specialists into their programs and services.
Military Culture Course Modules | Center for Deployment Psychology
The Department of Defense has developed an online four-module training of core competencies of military culture for healthcare professionals. The course includes a self-assessment of beliefs about military culture, an understanding of the structure and organization of the military, specific stressors and support systems associated with military service, and steps for integrating military support into treatment along with resources and tools.
Webinar: Cultural and Linguistic Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards in Behavioral Health Settings: Military and Veterans
The Central East Prevention and Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) developed a webinar that discusses how healthcare organizations can ensure that awareness, adoption, and implementation of the National CLAS Standards are incorporated to have a more inclusive definition of culture in order to better serve the military community.
Webinar: Community Prevention with the National Guard & Reserve: Opportunities for Collaboration
The Southeast PTTC developed a webinar to highlight community-level collaborative approaches for substance misuse prevention for National Guard & Reserve Soldiers and their communities.
Military OneSource is a website developed by the Department of Defense to provide 24/7 information, confidential help, and resources on topics pertinent to military life.
My HealtheVet Community
My HealtheVet is where all kinds of information about the Veteran community can be found. There are links to news and events, information on volunteering, VA benefits as well as health information specifically for veterans.
Veterans Crisis Line
Veterans can use a new option using the new three-digit 988 number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and pressing 1 to contact the Veterans Crisis Line. Veterans may still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the previous phone number—1-800-273-8255 and Press 1—by text (838255), and through chat (VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat).
November is traditionally thought of as a month for showing gratitude. Often when we meet a military veteran, it is customary to say “thank you for your service.” As prevention and treatment providers we can not only say thank you we can also portray our gratitude and honor our commitment to veterans by
- Becoming familiar with the many resources available for veterans and their families,
- Providing/receiving training on how to best serve the military population with prevention and treatment programs,
- Displaying and disseminating veterans crisis line and veterans resources in program and informational materials,
- Utilizing peer veterans in programs and collaborating with veteran services, and
- Collaborating with local and regional national guard and other military groups to provide prevention and community awareness programs.
Cele Fichter-DeSando, MPM
CFD Consulting, LLC
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Honor. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honor
NIDA. 2019, October 23. Substance Use and Military Life DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-use-military-life on October 7, 2022.
Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, 2022. Veterans Day. Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/ on October 10, 2022.
SAMHSA. 2022. Cultural Competency for Serving the Military and Veterans. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/section-223/cultural-competency/military-veterans on October 10, 2022.
SAMHSA, 2022 National Survey On Drug Use And Health: Veterans, 2022 Graphics, Tables, and Figures from the 2020 NSDUH Annual Report. July 27, 2022. Retrieved October 10, 2022, https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2020-nsduh-veterans
Teeters, J. B., Lancaster, C. L., Brown, D. G., & Back, S. E. (2017). Substance use disorders in military veterans: prevalence and treatment challenges. Substance abuse and rehabilitation, 8, 69–77. https://doi.org/10.2147/SAR.S116720