Needs of Military Veterans and Dependents

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Needs of Military Veterans and Dependents

Our nation’s assistance in helping military veterans and their families is lacking. Two needs that need the most focus are healthcare needs, specifically mental health, and transitional support. Many veterans end up homeless or lack health insurance once they enter the civilian world (Deyton, Hess, & Jackonis, 2008). According to Deyton et al. (2008) two million veterans and 3.8 million of their dependents lack private health insurance. Most hardworking veterans earn too much to qualify for Medicaid programs but make too little to afford insurance (Deyton et al., 2008). As a Naval veteran myself, I experienced the intimidating act of leaving the military and starting a new life as a civilian in 2011. During my exit from the military, I received an exit medical exam. This exam included the physician doing a head to toe assessment and reviewing my medical record. No focus was evident regarding my mental health. I was told by the physician, “You are a healthy childbearing woman and have no need for assistance upon discharge.” From there, I was on my own to transition into civilian care. I am one of the fortunate ones who could find resources. Many are not so lucky.

Another need for veterans is transitional support. Deyton et al. (2008) identify the lack of this support as another reason for homelessness and lack of health insurance access for veterans. Before I discharged from the military, my superiors encouraged me to attend a Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class. While participating in this class with about 50 others, I noticed only three other officers. The rest were enlisted. In the military, officers have at least a bachelor’s degree. The enlisted may also have some college background, but most are high school educated and trained on the job. The three officers and I left the class with a stack of papers and extreme confusion. While discussing our fears, we rationalized how fortunate we were that our education gave us opportunities on our exit. Many others in the class were realizing challenges of employment as they described jobs in which they applied and were turned down. Great fear was evident among the group.

Advocating Efforts

The development of policy is necessary to getting veterans healthcare access and supporting their transitional process. Deyton et al. (2008) point out resources available are fragmented, and integration is essential. Policy at the Agency Secretary level requiring coordination of these resources can make this integration possible (Deyton et al., 2008). As a Navy veteran nurse, I’m responsible for advocating for policy to make the transition smooth for military veterans and their families.

Advocating skills necessary for a transitioning military veteran policy include grassroots lobbying. Nurses should focus on developing relationships with their local legislatures and educate those legislatures on nursing interests (Milstead, 2013). Milstead (2013) identifies nurse constituents as valuable resources in grassroots efforts and suggests nurses join specialty nurse organizations to develop the skills necessary. Nurses who anticipate lobbying for policy should educate themselves on the lawmaking process and ethics laws to be most effective in their efforts (Milstead, 2013). Development in advocacy skills to participate in grassroots efforts are necessary to support policy in helping military veterans and their families.

Nurses are responsible for advocating for the health of the populations (Laureate Education, 2012). In nurses’ daily lives, they develop relationships with clients and colleagues giving them the opportunity to show compassion and empower their clients and coworkers (Begley, 2010). With rapport built, nurses have the responsibility of spreading education about healthcare issues and holding their colleagues accountable (Begley, 2010). Dr. Peter Beilenson explained that, in the eyes of legislatures, nurses are constituents who care for their patients without a business agenda (Laureate Education, 2012). Nurses should realize their value and become active in advocacy efforts to help veterans and their families and other suffering populations.


Begley, A. (2010). On being a good nurse: Reflections on the past and preparing for the future. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 16(6), 525-532.

Deyton, L., Hess, W. J., & Jackonis, M. J. (2008, Winter). War, its aftermath, and U.S. health policy: Toward a comprehensive health program for America’s military personnel, veterans, and their families. Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, 36(4), 677–689.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2012g). The needle exchange program. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Milstead, J. A. (2019). Health policy and politics: A nurse’s guide (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

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