Increase in Veterans Reporting Mental Health Issues

A new report suggests nearly half of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans have symptoms of mental health issues. The data, which was collected from the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, reveals that over 17,000 veterans were diagnosed with mental health issues in the last quarter of 2010 alone, up nearly 100 percent since 2004, when the veterans’ advocacy group, Veterans for Common Sense, first began studying this trend.

Recent reports have shown that deployed military personnel are citing more emotional stress than at any time in the last four to five years. The military has doubled the amount of medical personnel available in warzones to assist and treat those who are experiencing psychological trauma. However, this does not impact those who are sent home. Paul Sullivan, executive director for Veterans for Common Sense, said, “We truly support having more doctors in warzones, that’s great. But we also need to make sure we have enough doctors here.”

A representative for the Veterans Affairs Administration, Laurie Tranter, did report that they have steadily increased the staff of mental health professionals at home by nearly double since 2002. She believes that the number of veterans who are being diagnosed with mental health issues may be increasing due to the advances in diagnoses and availability of health services.

Regardless of the increase, the government has recognized this shortfall and has issued its own condemnation. The recent opinion of a federal appeals court stated that the VA’s mental health system should receive drastic reform based on information that veterans wait as long as four years to receive treatment and benefits. One of the judges, Judge Stephen Reinhart, said, “Although the VA is obligated to provide veterans mental health services, many veterans with severe depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) are forced to wait weeks for mental health referrals… For those who commit suicide in the interim, care does not come soon enough.”

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • maddie g

    maddie g

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:24 AM

    Just because there are more vets reporting these issues does not really mean that there are more problems. It just might mean that hopefully the lines of communication have been opened for these soldiers and they are finally at a point where they feel comfortable reporting these issues and seeking help for them. I think that with all of the public discourse and conversation surrounding the issue that this was just a matter of time but it has maybe taken a little longer to sink into the military community and for those members to feel ok discussing that with others in the way that many of us have come to recognize is ok.

  • James


    May 19th, 2011 at 5:45 AM

    Veterans have been receiving sub-standard or no care for far too long. It is encouraging to see that the stigma is not outweighing the potential benefits of seeking treatment. I’ve known many soldiers who opted out of therapy because of the potential affect on their career, or what their superiors may think about their mental stability if they found out. Now that the VA is recognizing MHCs, it’s time to get busy!

    On a side note, a big thanks to all U.S. Vets whom have made such incredible sacrifices on behalf of our security and well-being! You are appreciated!

  • Daryl Harper

    Daryl Harper

    May 19th, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    It’s well know that a war zone is the worst place to be if you do not want any mental health issues.But why is there such a large number of veterans reporting mental health issues?

    I say we should take a look and compare our stasts with those of soldiers of the supporting countries in the same places.We could compare the percentages of veterans complaining of an issue and really try to see if our numbers(percentage wise) are similar to or greater than the others’.

  • Maggie W

    Maggie W

    May 20th, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    Good for them! It is about time that this group of citizens finally feel like they have a voice and can say what they need to say about the things that they have seen and the life that they have had to lead as a result.

  • James


    May 20th, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    Veterans report mental health issues after the fact in most cases. It isn’t that this is anything new, it’s just that we are actually starting to listen. The last “major” conflict we were in that had substantial casualties and stressors was Vietnam. The veterans of the Vietnam era were dismissed by society, and never received the opportunity for real treatment. PTSD was called shell-shock in the WWs, and there was little treatment available that actually made a difference.

    I have a close friend on his forth tour right now (Blackhawk pilot, and an officer). Last month his team of 10 was ambushed. He and one other member were the only ones to survive the attack. By the end, he was completely covered in all his friend’s blood from trying to save them and holding off the attack until another unit could make it to them. He will undoubtedly receive a medal for his service, but he will carry that memory of watching his best friends (they went back together every tour to watch out for eachother) be killed while he tried to save them.

    That’s a good reason why Vets need the services. We weren’t able to give them to WWI and WWII survivors, nor the Vietnam/Korea vets. It’s about time we started to take care of them. As for other countries, I can’t say. Cultural norm, values, and expectations play a big role there.

  • Rosalee A.

    Rosalee A.

    May 20th, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    While at first glance this increase in numbers of veterans reporting mental issues sounds like a bad thing, I see it another way.

    I think it’s a positive sign that more realistic numbers are emerging. Military personnel apparently aren’t feeling the same stigma about reporting their issues as they did in the past.

    That’s a good thing. It forces the government’s hand to care for them sufficiently before it’s too late. They must improve the vet services for PTSD here and abroad ASAP.

  • ashley r

    ashley r

    May 20th, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    are we really doing any good for ourselves by this?draining billions and trillions of tax dollars at a time when the economy is unhealthy to say the very least…and now to hear that our armed forces personnel are suffering from health disorders is just ridiculous!

  • Hannah


    May 21st, 2011 at 6:32 AM

    I really cannot even imagine the things and situations that these veterans have had to live with. I know that this is the career path that they have chosen but this would be a terribly difficult one to live with especially if you are a part of the military during a time of war. I know that there have probably been men and women who have second guessed that chosen career path after living through some of the things that have lived through. I thank the stars for them but I also recognize that they need better treatment than what they have been offered in the past. They at least deserve that much.



    May 22nd, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    There are numerous difficulties and barriers that greet the personnel of the forces at every juncture and althoughthey are very good at tackling physical barriers and problems, they are just not trained enough for the mental ones. They are not too far ahead of an average Joe in mental strength and that is where we need to concentrate our training inthe future.

  • Brandi


    May 23rd, 2011 at 4:51 AM

    My dad fought in Vietnam and when he came home we knew some terrible things had happened over there but he never once wanted to talk about it. Maybe he did but he did not want to burden any of us with any of those issues. It would have been so noce while he was still living to know that advances and atrides in education and treatment are being made for veterans who have fought in wars for us but unfortunately he never was able to see that day. He thought that part of beig a good soldier was him keeping quiet.

  • Jess Sykes

    Jess Sykes

    May 25th, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    @maddie – I feel too that the majority of them have been keeping quiet about their conditions. I don’t think that’s the sole reason for the increase but I do consider it a significant one.

    The fear that they can be dismissed and lose all of the perks that come with being in the Army is a real silencer for many.

    What happens when they report mental problems has needed to be explained in black and white openly for a very long time.

  • O. Frost

    O. Frost

    May 29th, 2011 at 10:44 PM

    A man or woman dealing with any kind of mental instability has no place whatsoever in a warzone. If they lose their head altogether, you have a trained soldier with a gun who isn’t in his right mind. He’s a walking time bomb and a danger not only to himself and the enemy, but to his whole battalion.

    The press don’t report how often military personnel are killed/injured by friendly fire or because of their comrade in arms has a breakdown and decided to attack a fellow soldier.

    It happens more than civilians will ever know.

  • Olivia Stanton

    Olivia Stanton

    June 2nd, 2011 at 3:50 AM

    “Weeks” is unacceptable. They know how many are on the list. It’s simple: need more doctors, then give the go-ahead to train and hire more, Mr. President. The government can afford to do so.

    Medical care is about supply and demand. If there aren’t enough doctors to treat them fast enough, the problem will actually get worse and the waiting lists longer.

    Do they not actually care about people who aren’t holding a gun? How many innocent lives have to be affected before decisive action is taken?

    Fund the training of doctors specifically for the vets and give them their lives back! The good Lord knows they gave us enough of theirs in service.

  • Christian Penn

    Christian Penn

    June 9th, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    As far as the modern generation is concerned, they have no real understanding of how much veterans give of themselves for their country. “Yeah, you shot some guy because you were at war. Big deal.” As sad as it is, it’s how some of them think. It shows no respect for veterans whatsoever. But then neither does our government so we shouldn’t be surprised.

    The military budget’s size is staggering. A mere half percentage point of that enormous sum would be put to better use taking far better care of our veterans.

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