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Veteran Mental Health Support

Written by Dr. Rieka Yu
Published on February 19, 2024
Research Highlights

Every state and D.C. has a state department with resources for veterans.


There are multiple 24/7 crisis lines available for veterans.


Multiple states have orders to prohibit firearm possession for individuals at risk for self-harm.

Veterans suffer from mental health issues.

Veterans are at an increased risk of suicide among U.S. adults due to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brain injury, substance use, and losing a sense of purpose (Suicide Risks in Veterans). Suicide rates among veterans are approximately 1.5x greater than non-veterans, with firearms being the most common means of veteran suicide.


State and national resources connect veterans with help.

MO resources. The MO Veterans Commission provides a single point of resources as a website and PDF. They also have an outreach coordinator that refers veterans to resources. The MO Veterans Suicide Prevention Team is a network of military-connected suicide prevention trainers that provide in-person services (MO Department of Mental Health (DMH) a). MO DMH also has a map of behavioral health services in MO and fact sheets with resources for common veteran issues.


Welcome Home provides transitional shelter, permanent housing, employment assistance and supportive services for at risk and homeless veterans in central MO.


Other state’s resources. Every state and D.C. has a government function with veterans benefits and services such as education, careers, and healthcare (American Legion a). TX Military Veteran Peer Network places peers with local mental health authorities for a statewide peer-to-peer network.


A PA organization provides welcome home kits, similarly to MO’s Welcome Home while Elks Veterans Service provides welcome home kits nationally.


National Resources. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has support for transitioning to civilian life, guidance for families to encourage veterans to reach out for help, and resources for homelessness, PTSD, brain injury, and women veterans (U.S. Department of VA a). They also have mental health resources such as a 24/7 crisis line which can be accessed through the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and pressing 1 (MO DMH b). If necessary, a mobile team can meet the person and provide in-person help. Behavioral Health Crisis Centers provide help when the crisis cannot be resolved by phone or a mobile team.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 24/7 national helpline refers people to local treatment facilities, support groups, or community-based organizations (SAMHSA). SAMHSA also has an online treatment locator to help find local resources.


Different regulations and services address veteran mental health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which updated PTSD symptoms to be more specific and added complex PTSD as a disorder (Bovin et al. 2021). WHO member countries are expected to use the ICD-11 (WHO 2022). The ICD is a HIPAA code set standard for reporting diagnoses in healthcare, but there is no current implementation date for ICD-11 (American Health Information Management Association).


Temporary transfer laws allow voluntary firearm transfers to other people. In 2019, 30 states did not have temporary transfer laws and individuals could privately transfer firearms without a background check (Gibbons et al. 2020). Twenty states and D.C. have temporary transfer laws relating to the length and type of transfer, who can receive firearm transfers, liability, background checks, and exceptions (Figure 1). See our Science Note Donna’s Law for information on firearm “do-not-sell” lists.


The National Shooting Sports Foundation has a suicide prevention toolkit for firearms retailers, shooting range operators, and customers. The toolkit teaches the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, where to find help, and encourages safe firearms storage.


Buddy checks are check-ins with veterans to see how they are doing and if any local resources can help (American Legion b). The American Legion has check-ins on March 15th and Veterans Day.


Nationally, there is a buddy check week in October, during which the VA encourages veterans to check in with 10 fellow veterans. (U.S. Department of VA b).

  • MO and TX have a monthly buddy check day to promote the education and awareness of suicide in military and veterans and connect people with mental health resources.
  • NE has monthly buddy check gatherings for veterans to reduce and eliminate suicides.


Figure 1. States that have temporary transfer laws. Temporary transfer laws allow people to voluntarily transfer their firearm to somebody else. Data from Gibbons et al. 2020.



American Health Information Management Association. (n.a.). Medical Code Set Development and Maintenance. https://www.ahima.org/advocacy/focus-areas/topics/medical-code-sets/development-and-maintenance/#:~:text=ICD%2D10%2DPCS%20is%20the,%26%20Medicaid%20Services%20(CMS).

American Legion a. (n.a.). State Benefits and Services. Accessed February 13, 2024. https://www.legion.org/veteransbenefits/state.

American Legion b. (n.a.). Buddy Check Program. https://www.legion.org/sites/legion.org/files/legion/publications/57MEM0923-Buddy-Check-Toolkit.pdf.

Bovin MJ, Camden AA, & Weathers FW. (2021). Literature on DSM-5 and ICD-11: An Update. National Center for PTSD. 32(2), 1050-1835. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/publications/rq_docs/V32N2.pdf.

Elks Veterans Service. (n.a.). Welcome Home. Accessed February 13, 2024. https://www.elks.org/vets/welcomehome.cfm.

Gibbons MJ, Fan MD, Rowhani-Rahbar A, & Rivara FP. (2020). Legal Liability for Returning Firearms to Suicidal Persons Who Voluntarily Surrender Them in 50 US States. American Journal of Public Health. 110(5), 685-688. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2019.305545?role=tab.

MO Department of Mental Health a. (n.a.). Missouri Buddy Check 22 Day. Accessed February 13, 2024. https://dmh.mo.gov/missouriBC22#:~:text.

Missouri Department of Mental Health b (n.a.). Crisis Services. Accessed February 9, 2024. https://dmh.mo.gov/behavioral-health/treatment-services/specialized-programs/crisis-services.

MO Department of Mental Health c. (n.a.). Missouri Buddy Check 22 Day. Accessed February 13, 2024. https://dmh.mo.gov/missouriBC22.

MO Veterans Commission. (n.a.). Missouri Benefits and Resource Portal. https://veteranbenefits.mo.gov/.

MO Veterans Commission. (n.a.). Missouri Benefits & Resource Guide. https://mvc.dps.mo.gov/docs/veterans-benefits-guide.pdf.

MO Veterans Commission. (n.a.). Veterans Resource & Outreach Coordinator. https://mvc.dps.mo.gov/about/omb.php.

National Shooting Sports Foundation. (n.a.). Suicide Prevention Program for Retailers and Ranges. Accessed February 12, 2024. https://www.nssf.org/safety/suicide-prevention/.

NE Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.a.). Buddy Check. Accessed February 9, 2024. https://veterans.nebraska.gov/events/buddy-check-0.

Operation Troop Appreciation. (n.a.). Veteran Welcome Home Program Services. Accessed February 13, 2024. https://operationtroopappreciation.org/welcome-home-program-services/.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.a.). SAMHSA’s National Helpline. Accessed February 9, 2024. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline.

TX Veterans Commission. (n.a). Veterans connect on Buddy Check Day. Accessed February 13, 2024. https://www.tvc.texas.gov/veterans-connect-on-buddy-check-day/.

TX Veterans Mental Health Department. (n.a.). Military Veteran Peer Network. Accessed February 9, 2024. https://veteransmentalhealth.texas.gov/military-veteran-peer-network/.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs a. (n.a.). Mental Health. Accessed February 9, 2024. https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/get-help/index.asp.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs b. (2023). VA encourages all Veterans and their families to participate in first inaugural National Buddy Check Week. Accessed February 12, 2024. https://news.va.gov/press-room/va-encourages-all-veterans-and-their-families-to-participate-in-first-inaugural-national-buddy-check-week/.

Welcome Home. (n.a.). About us. Accessed. February 13, 2024. https://www.welcomeveterans.org/about/.

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