Navigating Mental Health Care for Veterans

One in five veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan experience the "invisible wounds of war," including posttraumatic stress disorder or major depression. If left untreated, these conditions can have long-lasting and damaging consequences, impairing relationships, work productivity, quality of life, and overall well-being for veterans and their families.

Fortunately, there are effective treatments for these problems. A growing body of RAND research shows that veterans who receive high-quality care have the best chance of improving their mental health outcomes.

Terri Tanielian, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND and a nationally recognized expert on military and veteran health, recently received funding to distill lessons from RAND research on mental health care for veterans. Made possible in part by a gift from alumnus Charles Zwick—a researcher at RAND from 1956 to 1965 who later served as both a trustee and an advisory trustee—the project helps summarize ways to improve the quality of mental health care for veterans and to explain what it is, why it matters, and how it makes a difference.

A mental health professional takes notes while talking with a soldier, photo by asiseeit/Getty Images

Photo by asiseeit/Getty Images

Tanielian is also participating in RAND’s new Congressional Fellowship Pilot Program. She will join the staff of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee for six months, focusing on helping committee staff understand the data and science behind veteran suicide prevention policies as a basis for effective policymaking.

The pilot program, which is supported by The Ahmanson Foundation and the Epstein Family Foundation, will test a new approach to bringing RAND research and expertise to Congress. Run by RAND’s Office of Congressional Relations, in coordination with RAND Health Care and Global Research Talent, it will provide an opportunity to more directly inform federal policy on veteran suicide prevention with nonpartisan research. If successful, the pilot could result in a permanent program that extends to policy areas beyond veterans’ issues.