(Photo:Flickr/The U.S. Army)

A recently published study reveals that in the coming years, the amount of money the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will spend on mental health care for veterans is likely to increase dramatically.

The study focuses largely on the care of veterans in conflicts such as the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War, but the information researchers found predicts skyrocketing costs for the VA. According to the findings, based on data examined from 2007, the VA spent nearly three times as much on veterans with mental health or substance abuse issues as for veterans without those conditions.

As The Washington Post reports, veterans struggling with mental health issues accounted for about one in seven individuals using the VA’s health services but represented nearly one-third of the system’s costs.

According to the study’s authors, “The size of the veteran population with mental and substance use disorders is likely to continue to increase, as military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan decrease in size and service members leave the armed forces. Given the clinical complexity and health care costs associated with these disorders, identifying ways to increase efficiency while improving quality is critical.”

More than 2.2 million troops have served in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the number of veterans seeking mental health care has continued to rise. This past year, more than 1.2 million veterans were treated; in 2004, that number was approximately 654,000. Post-traumatic stress disorder marks the largest increase in mental health problems among veterans.

Sources: The Washington Post, The New York Times

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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