Differences in Mental Health Service Use Among Unemployed Veterans of Different Eras

Mental disorders have been linked to unemployment among veterans. Improving mental health conditions, such as depression, can improve veteran employment outcomes. This study compared mental health treatment among unemployed Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF; in Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF; in Iraq) veterans and veterans from other service eras. The study included 3165 unemployed veterans from six Veterans Affairs medical centers with a positive screen that indicates a possible mental disorder. Chi-squared tests and logistic regression analyses assessed whether veteran era was associated with mental health treatment. Unemployed OEF/OIF veterans were less likely to receive psychotropic medication and four or more psychotherapy sessions compared to veterans from other eras. Multivariable analyses controlling for age found associations based on younger age rather than era. Younger unemployed veterans received fewer mental health services, which is concerning because reducing mental health symptoms may increase employment and employment may reduce symptoms, which are key factors in reintegration into civilian life.