By: Alex Horton

War, despite its vicious and ugly nature, has a way of advancing both technology and medicine. The battles of World War II spurred the creation of antibiotics still used today, and out of the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear energy is used all over the planet.

The Veterans Administration, the predecessor to the Department of Veterans Affairs we know today, was unprepared for the demand of mental health services after the Vietnam War, and the only solution to the ineffective model of care was innovation. Vet Centers were created four years after the war ended to provide counseling to Vietnam Vets who struggled with reintegration. Eligibility for Vet Centers have expanded since then, serving Veterans from World War II to Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

Today, war Veterans can access individual, group and family counseling, military sexual trauma (MST) counseling, substance abuse and employment assessment, and benefits referrals. The centers are notable for their discreet locations away from big and bustling hospitals, and their staffs usually consist of war Vets themselves.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have helped to refocus attention on these critical resources. The Arizona Republic reported on the increase of Vet Centers in the state along with a noticeable difference in quality for Reed Webber, an Afghanistan Veteran. Just five years ago, he didn’t get the care he needed from his Vet Center or the closest VA medical center. Since then, mental health care budgets have expanded and new Vet Centers were built.

The need for adjustment counseling for war Vets will only increase over time. Once again, wars have both provided both demand and focus on services to improve care not just for the newest Vets, but the oldest we have.

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