Connecting with VA Services
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides specialty inpatient and outpatient mental health services at its medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics. In addition, readjustment counseling services are available for Veterans and their families at Vet Centers across the nation. All mental health care provided by VHA supports recovery, striving to enable a person with mental health problems to live a meaningful life in their community and achieve their full potential.
Veteran status can open the door to a large number of resources, including eligibility for VA healthcare. Enrollment in VA healthcare can ensure that a Veteran has health coverage when he or she most needs it.
The VA system is large, separated into 21 different U.S. regions called VISNs (Veterans Integrated Service Networks) with more than 1,400 sites of care including hospitals, community clinics, nursing homes, domiciliaries, readjustment counseling centers (Vet Centers), and various other facilities.
VA Medical Centers provide state of the art care for a range of behavioral health concerns including mental health disorders as well as co-occurring conditions such as pain and traumatic brain injury. VA care includes:
Specialized care for many conditions including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma, pain management, and mild Traumatic Brain Injury.
Individual psychological and psychiatric services, group therapy that allows Veterans to connect with other Veterans, residential intensive treatment, and also primary healthcare.
Whole Health is VA’s cutting-edge approach to care that supports the Veteran’s health and well-being. In the Whole Health model, the health care team will get to know the Veteran, before working together to develop a personalized health plan based on the Veteran’s values, needs, and goals. Visit VA Whole Health to learn more.
While the specific services available at each medical center may vary, you will find resources and care providers who will support you in the goal of providing comprehensive care for your Veteran client.
Available VA Services
What Services Are Available at My Local VA Medical Center?
Below are some suggestions on how to find out more about the services available.
Read the Guide: Download the VA's Guide to Mental Health Services for Veterans & Families. This handbook provides information about mental health services that your local or regional VA health care facility has pledged to provide to Veterans.
Make a Personal Connection: Locate your nearest VA Medical Center or Vet Center using our program locator. Set up a meeting with someone at the hospital, or in a VA clinic, to find out more about what is provided at that location and what services may be helpful for your client.
Contact a VA Transition and Care Management (TCM) Team: The VA Healthcare System has taken steps to ensure that returning Veterans have access to the best care possible upon their return. Each VA hospital has a Transition and Care Management (TCM) team. This team can provide your client with information about available benefits and resources. Contact your local VA TCM Team or call the VA Health Benefits Line at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).
All Veterans, their family members and caregivers have access to support from a VA Social Worker. VA Social Workers are available to assist Veterans in a variety of settings to include the primary care clinic, during hospitalization, at Emergency Department visits, in mental health and rehabilitation units, and upon enrollment in specialty medical programs to name a few. They can assist the Veteran, family members, and Caregivers in resolving housing, finance, mood, relationship, and physical limitation issues in individual, group, or family treatment, whichever suits the need of the Veteran. VA Social Workers refer to VA and community-based programs, linking to resources and services in support of the Veteran’s treatment goals. For more information on how VA Social Workers can assist, please contact your local VA Hospital Social Work Department or visit VHA Social Work.
Additional VA Resources to Support Veteran Care
Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 FREE and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Support at Vet Centers (Readjustment Counseling Services)
If a Veteran has served in ANY combat zone, local Vet Centers can help the Veteran and his or her family with readjustment counseling and outreach services for free.
The central role of peer counseling and differences in confidentiality policies can be aspects that make the Vet Centers an attractive referral for individual or group counseling.
Established by Congress in 1979, Vet Centers are community based and part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. There are 232 community-based Vet Centers. The goal of the Vet Center program is to provide a broad range of counseling, outreach, and referral services to eligible Veterans in order to help them make a satisfying post-war readjustment to civilian life. Generally, combat Veterans and Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma (combat and non-combat related) are eligible for care at the Vet Centers. Vet Centers are also often staffed by a number of recently separated Veterans who have served in Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn.
Support for Family Caregivers of Veterans
VA’s Caregiver Support Program offers training, resources, and multiple tools to help support caregivers of Veterans of all eras. Additional benefits and services are available through the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, for caregivers of eligible Veterans injured in the line of duty post 9/11. Caregiver Support Coordinators (CSCs) are located at every VA Medical Center and are the clinical experts on caregiver issues regarding VA and non-VA resources. For more information, including how to locate your local CSC, visit https://www.caregiver.va.gov or contact the Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-32774
Coaching into Care (Support for Family and Friends of Veterans)
Coaching into Care provides a "coaching" service for family and friends of Veterans who see that their Veteran needs help. Coaching involves helping the caller figure out how to motivate their Veteran to seek services. The service is free and provided by licensed clinical social workers and psychologists. The goal of the service is to help the Veteran and family members find the appropriate services in their community.
For additional information, please visit MIRECC Coaching into Care, or contact the Coaching into Care Call Center at 1-888-823-7458(M-F, 8AM-8PM EST).
Housing Needs and Homelessness
Housing needs can be urgent. Below are National VA resources to help Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We also suggest contacting your nearest VA Medical Center and requesting to speak to either the point person for the homeless Veterans program or to a mental health provider to discuss possible additional local VA or community housing or homelessness resources.
Veterans and care providers can call 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838) for information and aid. This information is also available at http://www.va.gov/homeless/nationalcallcenter.asp.
Women Veterans experiencing homelessness: The Department of Labor recently released Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers. At the back of this "Trauma Guide" is a resource list that includes resources for homelessness.
If the Veteran that you are working with is a student, there are additional resources specifically for this group. The post-911 GI Bill has resulted in increased numbers of Veterans attending colleges and universities.
The Student Veterans of America (SVA) have also created materials for creating a Veteran friendly campus.
Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership
The VA Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) program strives to enhance academic retention and success through on-campus clinical care and coordination.
PTSD Consultation Program
The PTSD Consultation Program for Community Providers offers free education, information, consultation and other resources to non-VA health professionals who treat Veterans with PTSD outside of the VA system. These services provided are consistent with evidence-based practices for PTSD and VA consensus statements such as the VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guidelines for PTSD. Consultation services are free. Email: PTSDconsult@va.gov or call 866-948-7880.
Make the Connection Website
Make the connection covers a range of symptoms and conditions that Veterans may experience such as insomnia, anger, depression, pain, and PTSD. Veterans and providers can watch videos of Veterans telling their stories, download information materials on these signs and conditions, and can learn more about connecting to care.
Learn about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from Veterans who live with it every day. Hear their stories. Find out how treatment turned their lives around.
National Center for PTSD
This website is a goldmine of information and resources on readjustment and PTSD for Veterans and their families and providers. It includes informational handouts, assessments, and video trainings (some which provide CEU credit).
VA Smartphone Mobile Applications (Apps)
The VA, National Center for PTSD, and the Department of Defense have developed mobile applications for behavioral health. There are apps that can be used for self-management, as well as those that are designed to be used alongside evidence-based treatments such as those for PTSD.
Eligibility for VA Services
For specific questions contact the Enrollment Coordinator at your local VA health care facility or call (877) 222-VETS (8387), M-F 8am-8pm EST
If eligible for VA healthcare, your Veteran client can benefit in several ways. Benefits include direct mental health care or access to VA resources and services that can support the care he or she receives in the community. The first step is finding out if the Veteran you are working with is eligible. From there you can choose to refer or find additional resources that can support the care that you are providing (for example, group treatments, specialty care, housing resources).
Generally, if someone has served 24 consecutive months of active duty service in the military, naval, or air service and did not receive a dishonorable discharge, they may be eligible for VA Healthcare. In some cases, their eligibility may be based on their income. There are some special conditions, such as:
Experienced MST (Military Sexual Trauma). All treatment for physical and mental health conditions related to MST is free. Veterans may be able to receive this free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA care.
Reservists who serve on active duty establish Veteran status and may be eligible for the full-range of VA benefits. In addition, reservists not activated may qualify for some VA benefits.
National Guard members can establish eligibility for VA benefits if activated for federal service during a war (for example, serving in combat) or domestic emergency.
Veterans who served in combat, such as those who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn, since Nov. 11, 1998 are eligible to receive five years of enhanced enrollment eligibility for VA health care services (from the date of their military discharge/separation). This includes cost-free health care from VA for conditions that are possibly related to combat service. For more information go to the VA's Health Benefits website.
Determining Eligibility Status
Determining the eligibility status and possible co-payment information for a Veteran can be complicated. Because of this we strongly suggest encouraging your client to apply for enrollment even if you feel he or she may not be eligible.
Who should I or the Veteran contact with questions about enrollment in VA Healthcare?
Telephone: Call the Enrollment Coordinator at your local VA health care facility or (877) 222-VETS (8387).
Online: Visit the enrollment and benefits webpage to have your client enroll or update their information online.
Mail: Print the 10-10EZR form or call to have the form mailed to you. Have the Veteran complete, sign and mail their application to their local VA Medical Center or clinic.
In Person: Your client can visit the VA Medical Center or clinic nearest them to apply for enrollment or if already enrolled, to update their information in person.
Guide: You can download the general Veterans Health Benefits Guide.
Communicating with VA
If your client has or is currently being seen for services at a VA Medical Center, it may be helpful to speak directly to their VA care provider. VA Medical Centers use Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT) which involve each Veteran working with their health care professionals to address all aspects of the Veterans health. Veterans are assigned care managers through these teams which are often nurses or social workers. Additionally, if you have questions about navigating the care available to Veterans at the VA, you may also contact the Patient Advocate at your local VA.
VA Solid Start provides information about connecting to care and services for transitioning Service members
Accessing and Sharing Medical Records
If you have spoken with your client and believe it would be helpful in treatment to review his or her medical records, there are a few ways you and your client can access VA medical records.
By Telephone: You can contact the Release of Information (ROI) office at the VA facility from which your client receives or has received services. The individuals working in this office will be able to tell you what information they will need from you in order to be able to release the Veteran's medical records. To reach the Release of Information office, you can call your local VA Medical Center directly and ask the operator to connect you to the Release of Information Office.
Electronically: The Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Program: VLER Health Exchange is a program to help “Connect Your Docs” by enabling VA and non-VA providers to securely access certain Veteran health information electronically using the eHealth Exchange. The eHealth Exchange is a secure, trusted internet exchange. VA requires a Veteran-signed authorization (VA Form 10-0485) prior to sharing Veteran health information with non-VA providers.
To view instructions on how to “connect your docs” online, by mail, or in person see: http://www.va.gov/VLER/vler-health-exchange-registration-guide.asp#online
Website: My HealtheVet is the VA's Personal Health Record. It allows the Veteran to communicate securely with his or her primary care doctor and offers Veterans tips and tools to help partner with their health care team. VA Patients with a My HealtheVet Premium account can manage their options for sharing their electronic health record with participating non-VA community providers.