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The single best way to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families is to end the cycle of
mental health crisis. Education of community providers, and collaboration between VA, Vet Centers
and civilian organizations must be the priority moving forward. By providing more information to
providers and communities, the social and emotional risks associated with seeking mental health care
may be eased. Improving provider access to education is part of the battle, but improving awareness in
the communities in which our veterans and service members live is also an important part of the
challenge. Veterans face an internal stigma that burdens them with perceived weakness and very real
isolation in the wake of brain injury and emotional struggles. Educating our communities through
public service campaigns and access to information is imperative to address the external sources of
shame that drive our wounded warriors even deeper into denial and despair.
The Beginning
Despite the challenges, many veterans and service members do find themselves in civilian waiting
rooms. In order to make use of education and training, providers need to know whom they are serving.
Asking the question, “Have you served?” is an obvious and simple opening to the door of care,
consideration, treatment options, and benefits that will ensure our brave men and women are getting
the services they need and deserve. However, many providers do not ask. It is a question that is not
included on the vast majority of health history forms in our State. This question, if not asked, leaves a
myriad of information undiscovered that might be critical to the acute and long-term care of that
individual. Only with the data from this question, can our State continue to identify and address the
needs of our veterans.
* The term “full service” is not a description of services used by the VA to identify levels of care provided at VA facilities,
but is a term often employed by the media and in political statements to underscore the fact that the Manchester VA facility
does not have inpatient care beds. The VA utilizes Access Guidelines to measure veteran access to care. The State of New
Hampshire meets VA access guidelines to both secondary care (general inpatient care services) and tertiary care
(advanced specialized inpatient care services). The White River Junction VA Medical Center provides secondary care
services and the Boston VA Healthcare System provides both secondary and tertiary care services. Manchester VA
Medical Center offers primary care services at the facility and its Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC), and
secondary care services by contract with Concord Hospital.
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