The Association Between Discharge Status, Mental Health, and Substance Misuse Among Young Adult Veterans

Published in: Psychiatry Research Volume 256 (October 2017), Pages 428-434. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.07.011

Posted on RAND.org on July 26, 2017

by Stephanie Brooks Holliday, Eric R. Pedersen

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Although 85% of military service members are discharged honorably, veterans who engage in misconduct during military service may receive other types of administrative or punitive discharges. The discharge type not only affects eligibility for benefits, but is associated with negative downstream consequences (e.g., homelessness, criminal justice involvement). However, limited empirical research has examined the mental health and substance use-related needs of veterans who were not Honorably discharged, and the few that have only focus on veterans who received punitive discharges. This study addressed gaps in the research literature on discharge status by examining differences in mental health, substance use, and attitudes toward psychological treatment among veterans who received Honorable, General Under Honorable Conditions, and Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges. Young adult veterans (N = 734) were recruited online and completed a battery of self-report measures. Results indicated that veterans who received General and OTH discharges endorsed significantly greater rates of mental health conditions and substance misuse. They also reported more negative perceptions of mental health care. Because these veterans may also experience more barriers to accessing mental health services, it is critical to consider ways to connect these veterans with needed services.

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