Reaching today’s veterans
Under the leadership of Secretary Eric Shinseki, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is undergoing a transformation that has dramatically improved veteran access to the services they have earned. Because so many of today’s veterans are familiar and comfortable with web-enabled applications and smartphones, opportunities to “reach veterans where they are” have never been greater, or more effective. From eBenefits to Blue Button, VA is serious about automated electronic outreach.
Engaging veterans on their own terms is especially crucial in the area of mental health. Each year VA sees a rising number of veterans with mental health concerns, and extending services to them is a top priority. Over the last four years, veterans seeking and receiving specialized mental health treatment at VA increased from 900,000 to 1.2 million; last year alone over 400,000 veterans who received mental health treatment had a diagnosis of PTSD.
To broaden VA’s reach to veterans and prevent long-term readjustment problems, VA is making self-assessment and management tools readily accessible to those with smartphones. For example, in April 2011 the PTSD Coach was launched, designed for veterans and service members who are experiencing PTSD symptoms. This app was built in response to veterans who said they needed tools to get them through difficult moments; it is available free for iPhone and Android users. There are more mobile health apps on the way.