Veterans, especially those who deployed overseas, face elevated risks of mental health conditions. Roughly one in five veterans have experienced mental health problems, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, and anxiety. 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.

RAND researchers have conducted multiple studies of the mental health care received by veterans across the systems that deliver this care. RAND’s pathbreaking study, Invisible Wounds of War, galvanized attention to the policy debate over veteran's mental health. Researchers found that about one in five veterans who had served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffered from PTSD- or major depression. It also found that only half of those needing treatment for these conditions seek it, and only slightly more than half who receive treatment get minimally adequate care.

RAND work has paid particular attention to the care delivered by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). A comprehensive evaluation of VHA mental health care delivered by the VA found that the VA delivers quality care at equal or higher rates than comparable private sector providers. After passage of the Veterans' Choice Act, which opened options for VA-eligible veterans to seek care from the private sector, researchers assessed the readiness of private sector providers to deliver high-quality mental health care to veterans and identified areas for improvement.