Current national need for additional mental health services: 3,150,000 veterans
Additional developing mental health needs over the next ten years: 408,500 new veterans
Total national need for additional services over the next ten years (after factoring in projected veteran mortality rates during this time): 3,558,500 veterans
The VA is swamped: Between 2005 and 2013, the number of Veterans who received mental health care from VA increased 63 percent, over three times faster than the growth in numbers of VA users overall. Between 2002 and 2013, more than 1.6 million Veterans left active duty and became eligible for VA care, and just over half of these Veterans have accessed VA care. Among these newer VA users, 54 percent have sought care for mental health disorders, more than double the rate seen among all VA users. (OIA's Annual VA Mental Health Transparency Report, 2014)
Not all veterans can or will access VA services: For a variety of reasons, about half of veterans don't utillize VA services. For some, it may be the simple fact that they don't live near enough to a VA facility to be practical. For others, their discharge status may be barring them from receiving VA benefits, or they may not want their mental health care records in the federal government VA system. Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma during their service often avoid VA facilities because they are not getting the specific care and support they need to deal with this intensely personal and complex trauma. Mental health care program options vary widely among different VA facilities, and some locations lack the kinds of programming that some veterans need. There is no "one size fits all" therapy that works for everyone. The effects of trauma on mental health are complex, and each person responds differently to therapy approaches. The VA can't be all things to all people all the time.
Veterans need additional choices for effective, evidence-based mental health care that are confidential, in their communities, and are available to all veterans regardless of discharge status. They need broader options that go beyond traditional methods to reach those who don't respond well to talk or behavioral therapies. And they need inclusive options that reduce their sense of isolation and help them reconnect with their family members and communities to improve their chances for long-term success.
Ars Bellum's mobile art therapy programs are an effective addition to the civilian tool kit we need to develop to provide our veterans and military families with the care and support they have earned.