When you’re struggling with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it can be hard to ask for help, let alone know what resources are available to you.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), PTSD is the third most-common service-connected disability affecting our veterans. Nearly 250,000 post 9/11 veterans have received a PTSD disability diagnosis.
The good news is that there are benefits available to help; the bad news is that some of these benefits are harder to get than others.
“The first thing I would recommend a veteran do is get a veteran advocate to work with them. If you go to the Veterans Administration, it gets a little bit difficult,” said Mike Mader, northern supervisor for the Nevada Department of Veteran Services. “They will turn around and fill out paperwork for you and do whatever they need to do for you, but the advocates are usually looking after your best interest to make sure that you’re presenting all the applicable evidence to support your case.”
When it comes to PTSD resources, the VA has a multitude of them, including disability compensation, health care, vocational rehabilitation and online apps with tools for managing symptoms. However, one of the most helpful benefits they offer is access to mental health professionals.
“There’s mental health counseling, group counseling, individual counseling, medication management — there are just a plethora of different things that are available to these people,” said Mader. “It depends on the individual’s care level and the individual needs as to what he actually should be into, and that’s usually best determined by the mental health provider.”
These mental health professionals are located in a variety of VA health care centers.
“They’re available at VA hospitals, VA clinics, community based outreach clinics, vet centers– they’re available at a lot of different places. Counseling is available to these individuals if they are able to sit down with a counselor. One size does not necessarily fit all. It depends on the relationship with the counselor and what they’re actually able to discuss,” Mader said.
If you’re not sure which health care centers are the closest to you, visit http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/gethelp.asp. Your veteran advocate should be able to provide resources as well.
“The advocates should be able to point [veterans] in the direction of the services that are available. There are numerous services out there. There’s a lot of treatment,” said Mader. “We’re identifying almost every day individuals who have been dealing with mental health or medical issues that have never sat down with a VA counselor, or they did sit down with a VA counselor and it was a long time ago; the attitudes were very different at that time. Now, we’re trying to reach out and let them know we’re here to help them. We’re very dedicated to what we do.”
Unfortunately, many times veterans have a hard time asking for help, especially when they need it most. They may fear appearing weak, or simply aren’t receptive to talking with the VA.
“I just really encourage these guys to give us another shot, give it a try, come back to the VA–even if they go to the VA directly. I would encourage the individual to go get a veteran advocate and sit down with them,” said Mader. “Most of the advocates have been in the same boat. They’ve walked in the same shoes, so we can sit there and relate a little better to them about their conditions. We understand it a little bit more. We’re trained on it a little bit more. Let’s try to help you out, and if one counselor doesn’t necessarily work, fine, interview another advocate. Interview your advocate before you decide to sit down and have a conversation with them. Talk to them. Find out if you can work with this person.”
For more information about applying for benefits, read our article on “Applying for Benefits 101.” You might also check out “Do I Qualify for VA Disability Compensation” for more information on disability benefits