Critical Issues Facing Veterans and Military Families

SAMHSA addresses critical issues such as suicide risk, trauma, and homelessness that impact members of the military with behavioral health conditions.

Suicide Prevention

According to the January 2014 Veterans Health Administration report (PDF | 855 KB), the suicide rate among male and female veterans and military service members exceeds the national rate for the general population. Veterans comprise 20% of national suicides, with approximately 22 veterans dying by suicide every day. Three out of five veterans who died by suicide were diagnosed as having a mental health condition.

  • The Veterans Crisis Line, in partnership with SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, Ext. 1, connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • In partnership with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and VA, SAMHSA led efforts with National Guard Joint Force chaplains in 5 states to implement Partners in Care programs through which more than 400 faith leaders received suicide prevention gatekeeper training and partnered with the chaplain’s offices to provide coordinated support for National Guard members and their families.


Military service members, veterans, and their families are a growing community exposed to traumatic events. Involvement in combat that causes losses and fears; injuries associated with combat; repeated deployments and/or relocations; and military sexual violence—all may exert an emotional toll on military personnel, their families, and their communities.

  • The National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) report focuses on psychological interventions and reducing or preventing PTSD in vulnerable populations affected by trauma, such as returning service men and women.
  • SAMHSA published Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services – 2014 that contains information for professionals treating PTSD and other types of trauma. The report discusses patient assessment, treatment planning strategies that support recovery, and building a trauma-informed care workforce.

Criminal Justice

Specialty courts and legal projects have been created for veterans who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues and are involved with the criminal justice system. These courts deal with legal issues specific to veterans, prioritizing the interconnection between criminal justice and behavioral health care, with a goal to fairly adjudicate the punishment of veterans charged with crimes.

Housing and Homelessness

In the United States, about 10% of homeless people are veterans. Among this group, three out of four experience mental and/or substance use disorders. About one fifth of veterans in substance use treatment were homeless. SAMHSA offers resources that address the unique challenges of veterans experiencing homelessness and general housing needs of returning military servicemen and their families.

  • SAMHSA’s Homelessness Programs and Resources include articles about veterans, military families, and others experiencing homelessness or in need of affordable housing.
  • Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH), a SAMHSA formula grant program to states and territories, provides services to veterans and others with serious mental illness, including those with co-occurring substance use disorders, who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless.
Last Updated: 10/12/2018