Veterans are as diverse as the overall adult population, are represented among every race, gender, religion, and political affiliation, and reside in every state. There is no standard veteran but there are clichéd ideas of veteran identity based on myths and assumptions. Our assumptions not only affect how we treat veterans, but how veterans perceive themselves in relation to the civilian population as well. Always determine veteran status even if you are not a veteran-specific organization as this creates a pathway to benefits and resources as well as recognizes their experience.
Listen to Tyler Solorio, Army Afghanistan veteran, and Victor Inzunza, Marine Corps Iraq Veteran, discuss ways to identify, screen for veteran status, and build rapport in services for veterans. (24:31)
NOT ALL WILL IDENTIFY, NOT ALL WILL DISCLOSE
Not everyone who was in the military self-identifies as a veteran. Veterans themselves may think that one has to have served in combat or been wounded to be a ‘veteran’. They may associate the term veteran with a much older person than themselves. They may not consider it part of their primary identity. They may not want to reveal their veteran status because of stereotypes.
Therefore, you should encourage self-identification without fear. Let the veteran know why you are asking, and how it will inform the services and resources you can deliver.
Here are some preliminary/basic intake questions to ask the veteran:
- Have you ever been in the US Armed Forces?
- What branch(es)?
- Were you in the National Guard or Reserves?
- Were you deployed to a combat zone?
- What is the date of your last discharge?
There are further screening questions to ask to determine VA healthcare access and eligibility.
- What type of discharge did you receive?
- Do you have a copy of your DD-214?
- Are you currently enrolled in VA healthcare?
- If the client answers yes, determine who their care team is and if services could be better coordinated between you and their VA providers.
- If the client answers no, determine if the client needs assistance to enroll in VA services, and if there are needs that are not met by their current level of care.
Finally, it is good to screen for VA benefits eligibility. Ask:
- Are you receiving benefits from the VA?
- If the client answers yes, determine if they are receiving disability compensation, their rating, and what the rating is for.
- If the client answers no, determine if the client needs assistance to apply for benefits, and what potential disabilities may be connected to their military service.
IDENTIFY HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH SERVICE
After asking whether your patient or a family member has ever been in the military, ask the individual if it would be okay to talk more about that history. Start with questions regarding time of service, branch of service, and if they experienced any injury or illness during service.
You can then ask the veteran if it is okay to delve deeper into circumstances which will pinpoint possible risks or exposures relevant to their . These issue areas include exposure to sexual, combat, race-based, or other trauma and resultant depression, PTSD, or sleep issues.
For more information: VA has published a Military Health History Pocket Card which outlines issues to consider, including how to determine veteran status and pose questions regarding health.