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Mental Health Care Options for Veterans and Their Families

Our nation now recognizes that the men and women who defend us have experiences that can be difficult to process.  PTSD, depression, and anxiety can be normal responses to the abnormal situations our military members are sometimes placed in.  Veterans who feel mental pain associated with their service, whether they left the military last month or last century, can find help in Vermont. 

Can I Talk to Someone Right Now?

Yes.  Veterans and family members who need to talk to someone immediately can do so no matter the time or day, as 24 hour crisis counseling is always available from a variety of sources.

Does the VA Provide Mental Health Counseling?

Yes.  The US Department of Veterans Affairs provides mental health counseling in three different settings in Vermont.

VA Option #1:  Primary Mental Health Clinic

The VA provides a full range of therapy options through the Primary Mental Health Clinic (PMHC) at the White River Junction VA Medical Center.  Veterans do not need an appointment to be seen.  Veterans in need of mental health assistance can just show up, although we would recommend calling in advance for directions, hours of operation, etc.  Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, addictions, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, and other related conditions can find help at the PMHC, in both individual and group settings.

VA Option #2:  Community Based Outpatient Clinics & VA Community Partnerships

Veterans don't have to go to White River Junction to get mental health care from the VA.  They can get help from the Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Bennington and Colchester.  The VA also has partnerships with community mental health providers in Newport and St. Johnsbury.  Treatment at the Newport and St. Johnsbury community clinics can be arranged for you by the Primary Mental Health Clinic.

VA Option #3:  Vet Centers

The third VA option for mental health care are its two Vet Centers, which provide counseling in a more informal and relaxed setting to combat veterans and their families.  They provide both group and individual treatment for PTSD, family stress, and substance abuse.  They also provide bereavement counseling for those affected by the loss of a loved one serving in the military.

Are There Any Options Other than the VA for Mental Health Care?

Yes. Veterans don't have to get their mental health care from the VA.  Even though the VA may be responsible for a veterans care, veterans shouldn't limit themselves.  Veterans should pick the assistance that best suits their individual needs, or the needs of their family.  Below are some other options to consider:

Community Mental Health Clinics

The State of Vermont Department of Mental Health has established relationships with 16 different community mental health clinics spread across Vermont.  Every county has at least one clinic.  These clinics are operated by non-profit organizations, not the government.  The care they provide is 100% confidential.

Military OneSource

Military OneSource offers short-term, non-medical counseling services to all active duty, reserve, and national guard members and their families.  Counseling is available both in-person and over the telephone.  They are a good first step when the veteran or family member needs temporary assistance readjusting.  Their operators are availabe 24/7.  If you go to their website, look for the "24/7 Help Center" box at the top right.

Coverage from Insurance

Veterans and family members who have insurance from other sources may find that this coverage offers the best care for their situation.  Insurance from an employer, Green Mountain Healthcare, Vermont Health Access Plan (VHAP), MediCare, etc., will most likely provide some level of coverage for mental health care.  To learn more about what is available through your plan, contact the customer care number listed on your health insurance card or talk to your primary care provider. 

Is Help Available for Veterans and Family Members with Addictions?

Yes.  All of the providers described above can help with substance abuse counseling.  In addition, the Friends of Recovery is a non-profit organization that advocates for Vermonters seeking independence from their addictions.  They are a great resource for finding out what programs are available in your local area.

If I'm Receiving Counseling, Does that Mean I'm a Disabled Veteran?

No.  Even if you see a VA doctor, and that VA doctor treats you for a mental health condition directly related to your service, you are not considered a "disabled veteran" until you appy for and are approved to receive Disability Compensation through the Veterans Benefits Administration.  It is important that the VA's benefits branch recognizes your service-connected conditions, as receipt of compensation will most likely provide financial support and open access to other programs available to help you and your family.

How can I Learn More About Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Vermont has been a national leader in the treatment of PTSD.  The VA's National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder has its headquarters at the White River Junction VA campus.  Their website is an excellent resource for veterans and their families looking to learn more about this condition.