Despite the intention to create equal living conditions and services for all Americans today, some gaps still exist and affect minority populations. For example, in the healthcare sector, not all groups of people can receive necessary care of high quality, which contributes to the growth of mental health problems and behavioral changes. Individuals from combat zones, meaning veterans, need professional help to transit to civilian life and navigate available opportunities and obstacles. A gap in equity related to mental health care access for veterans is a social concern with a long history that should be addressed to prevent suicides and develop adequate services.
The United States is known as the country that constantly participates in wars, which explains an increased number of veterans with invisible wounds from military affairs. Although the gap in the delivery of health care for veterans is not specifically identified, its outcomes should no longer be ignored. According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (2018), about 18.5 million veterans compared to 238 million non-veterans live in the United States, and statistics could decrease in 2040. Many veterans report physical, psychological, emotional, and mental problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and schizophrenia, and cannot afford health insurance plans to compensate for care and cover their needs (Erwin, 2019; Hester, 2017). Instead of admiring their patriotism and family traditions, volunteers are challenged by negative experiences and painful memories.
The gap in mental health access equity is a modern issue, but its historical background is evident. World War I veterans shared their stories about combats and obligations to follow orders and remember who they were and how to function (Erwin, 2019). With time, the echoes of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf conflicts continue bothering veterans and provoking new mental health diagnoses. The uninsured rates for veterans decreased by 48% from 2009 to 2016, and people used their public and private insurance coverages in more than 45% of cases (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2018). These findings proved that veterans try to cope with their mental health problems but never obtain equal support and care.
Talking about access to healthcare, one should admit the socio-economic impact on veterans. Hester (2017) explains many American individuals enlist due to their educational benefits, financial profits, and personal beliefs. Some of them have already experienced health complications and joined the military without the possibility of proper diagnosis and treatment. They do not have insurance and good health education, and they are not ready to spend their money on solving their emotional concerns, relying on their military experience and physical strengths.
Regarding the decision to neglect their primary mental health needs, veterans do not have easy access to delivery systems. Hospitals do not observe patients with veteran-related problems, which results in reducing human resources and equipment to promote patient improvement. Primary reasons for veterans to address healthcare providers are physical injuries and treatment of chronic diseases, which leads to stigmatization of mental health services and maltreatment (Erwin, 2019). Patients do not monitor their emotional changes, reducing the speed of service delivery.
Veteran well-being is a crucial element in the modern healthcare system. Suicide rates among veterans have increased by 18% from 2011 to 2014 (Hester, 2017). Years after their military services, veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and bipolar disorders that complicate their treatment and require long-life interventions. Some American families are broken due to the impossibility of controlling veterans’ behaviors. All these potential implications will continue to grow if the equity gap remains unaddressed.
In conclusion, the gap in equity related to mental health access for veterans exists and challenges American society. People want to believe that their patriotism and the desire to protect the country will be recognized and respected. However, not all hospitals offer high-quality services promptly, and the history and current socio-economic factors prove the urgency of this problem. Veterans’ mental health has to be a priority for the government and professional organizations to promote equality, care, and support.
Erwin, S. K. (2019). American veterans and the evolution of mental health: A historical review of diagnoses and depiction. Journal of Veterans Studies, 4(1), 47–57. Web.
Hester, R. D. (2017). Lack of access to mental health services contributing to the high suicide rates among veterans. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 11. Web.
National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. (2018). Profile of veterans: 2016: Data from the American community survey. United States Department of Veteran Affairs. Web.