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PTSD: National Center for PTSD

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Help a Veteran Get Needed Care


Help a Veteran Get Needed Care

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Military service includes risks, even for those who do not deploy to combat zones. It may be hard for Veterans to adjust after service, and you may not know how to talk about it. Learn some tips and resources to help you get a Veteran access to care and services.

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Photo of Andy Dunaway

“It just takes someone reaching out to them and saying, 'Hey, I think you may need to go to the VA and get some help.'”

Andy Dunaway

Family Member

What Is It Like After Service?

Leaving military service can be planned (like retirement) or it may be sudden, for example, if a service member gets injured. The transition out of service can be hard for anyone, even if it is what the person wants. If you notice a difference in a Veteran after service, it might be worth talking to them about what they are experiencing.

"Normal" is different for everyone, but there are signs a Veteran you care about may need help. Some examples are sleep problems, feeling down or depressed, becoming angry easily or always being on edge, difficulties at work or school, problems with relationships, excessive drinking or drug use, or reckless driving.

We Know Each Other So Well. Why Can't We Seem to Talk about This?

It can be hard to tell someone that you think they need help. It can be difficult to say what you mean if you are worried. Also, it can be hard for someone to listen if they are anxious, nervous or even angry.

What Can I Do or Say to Support Them Getting Help?

Mental health care is helpful only if a service member or Veteran makes that decision for themself. Someone can accept making changes only when they truly feel there is a choice. Here are some tips for you to make it easier for a Veteran you care about to get help:

  • Express your support or concern. Try saying, "I know things are not going how you like right now, but know that I'd like to help."
  • Set a time to talk about your concerns so your loved one feels prepared.
  • Bring up your concerns and then find another time to talk again, instead of trying to resolve everything at once.
  • You don't need to ask about what happened to support a Veteran. If you do not have military experience, you can say something like, "I'm sure you went through things while serving that would be hard for me to understand, so maybe talking to someone at the VA or a Vet Center might help?"
  • "Demanding" someone seek help can backfire, making them less likely to go for help.
  • Avoid using threatening language or making ultimatums. Try not to say, "You need to go for help, or else." But it is okay to let someone know how their behavior is affecting you.
  • Talk about choices. You can say, "I know it's your call whether you go to see somebody, but if there's something I can do to help, let me know."

Additional Resources for Caregivers

Caregiver Support Program Teams are available at each VA Medical Center to help caregivers find the right support to meet their needs and to enroll in caregiver programs and services.

Caregiver Resources to support Veteran care, from advance care planning to training to finances and more.

VA's National Caregiver Support Line is a toll-free number for caregivers, family members, friends, Veterans, and community partners to contact for information related to caregiving and available supports and services. Call VA's Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 to learn more about support available.

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PTSD Information Voice Mail: (802) 296-6300
Also see: VA Mental Health