Significant numbers of returning military service personnel experience posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and/or traumatic brain injury. Ensuring access to high quality mental health care is critical for them and their families to reintegrate into their communities. Navigating the systems of care for service members, veterans, and their families can be challenging and even overwhelming. And, there have been many concerns.
The Welcome Back Veterans (WBV) initiative, launched in 2008 by Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, supported organizations that provided programs and services to address the mental health needs of returning veterans and their families. Between 2011 and 2016, RAND served as the performance monitoring center for this initiative to document and track their activities and impact.
The goal of Welcome Back Veterans was to transform the lives of returning veterans by providing treatment for veterans and their families, and to change the way Americans think and talk about PTSD, depression, and TBI.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can follow from witnessing or directly experiencing an event involving injury, threat to life, or death. People with PTSD may continue to re-experience the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares and may feel anxious, numb, or hyperaroused. PTSD can last for years and severely impair day-to-day functioning. The condition exacts an enormous toll on trauma survivors, their families, and society.
Many veterans return home suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Effective treatments are available to address PTSD, but too few receive high quality care for this condition.
An estimated 19 million American adults are living with major depression, a mental health disorder characterized by
persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.
Depression often occurs after a stressful event or trauma. Studies of veterans and their families reveal higher rates of depression when compared to the general population. In addition, many symptoms of depression overlap with symptoms of PTSD, and the two are commonly co-occurring. Thus, getting veterans and their families into effective care for these conditions is critically important.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is considered a signature injury of modern warfare—due to exposure from explosive blasts—though TBIs can also result from training accidents, falls, sports, and motor vehicle accidents.
Between 30 and 50 percent of injuries in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were from improvised explosive devices, and TBI is a frequent consequence of these incidents.
Among service members diagnosed with a TBI, the majority of cases are mild TBIs, also known as concussions. However, even mild TBIs can cause persistent problems for service members and place a heavy burden on their family members and caretakers.