Veterans' Guide to Benefits
Outreach and Counseling
Outreach Centers are non-profit organizations that receive state money through DVS to assist veterans and their families with a range of services. These vary by location and can include:
Vet Centers welcome home the war veteran by providing readjustment services in a caring manner, and assisting him/her and his/her family members toward a successful post-war adjustment in or near their respective communities. Vet Center counselors provide bereavement counseling to parents, spouses, and children of armed forces personnel (including Reservists/National Guard members) who died in the service of their country. Vet Center services include individual readjustment counseling, referral for benefits assistance, group readjustment counseling, liaison with community agencies, marital and family counseling, substance abuse information and referral, job counseling and placement, sexual trauma and PTSD counseling, and community education.
All services are free-of-charge to eligible veterans, their families, and significant others. Vet Center staff protects the privacy of all clients. All records related to treatment are strictly confidential and will not be shared with the VA.
The Department of Veterans’ Services in collaboration with the Department of Public Health, has a Statewide Advocacy for Veterans’ Empowerment (SAVE) program that assists veterans in need of referral services and seeks to prevent suicide and advocate on behalf of Massachusetts’ veterans. SAVE acts as a liaison between veterans (and their families) and the various agencies within the federal and state government. SAVE Outreach Coordinators focus on community advocacy, suicide prevention, mental health awareness, and referrals as well as respond to the needs of veterans and their families. The SAVE team is staffed by veterans from the current conflict and family members of veterans. The SAVE team meets with veterans and their families out in the community, bringing the resources directly to the veteran.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides service for veterans in crisis. Call (800) 273-TALK (8255) and press 1 to be connected immediately to VA suicide prevention and mental health service professionals.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder than can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults like rape. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged. These symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life. PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms. PTSD is complicated by the fact that it frequently occurs in conjunction with related disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. The disorder is also associated with impairment of the person’s ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and divorces, family discord, and difficulties in parenting.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
A number of veterans, both women and men, may have experienced sexual trauma while they served on active military duty. The law defines sexual trauma as: sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and other acts of violence. It further defines sexual harassment as repeated unsolicited, verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, which is threatening. Many veterans have never discussed the incident or their medical or psychological condition with anyone. Yet, these women and men know that they have “not felt the same” since the trauma occurred.
Note: Those veterans with a history of sexual trauma suffered while in the military MAY be eligible for VA treatment without charge for conditions related to that trauma, whether or not they are service-connected for that trauma.
For MST counseling, contact the nearest VA medical center, Vet Center, or the National Center for PTSD (see above for a complete listing).
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, is an injury that occurs when damage is done to the brain from an external physical force. The head may be hit or may strike a stationary object or be shaken violently. This may occur in a car accident, serious fall or by an act of violence. Servicemembers may sustain a TBI from a blast injury or shockwave. These kinds of events may result in significant cognitive, behavioral, or social challenges.
Statewide Head Injury Program grant
The Statewide Head Injury Program (SHIP) of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) provides services to individuals with TBI regardless of military discharge rating. SHIP received a $1 million competitive federal grant to strengthen services for individuals who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. The four-year grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, builds on a 2006 grant to continue to improve systems of care to better serve veterans (and their families) of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who sustained a TBI. This effort will include piloting an integrated case management model in partnership with the Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve.
Brain Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services (BI&SSCS)
The Brain Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services (BI&SSCS) is a department of the MRC. This program provides a range of community-based services to persons who have sustained a TBI, including: case management, social/recreational programs, skills training via regionally-based head injury centers, respite, residential services/programs, and family support services.
In order to be determined eligible for BI&SSCS services, an individual must:
BI&SSCS also offers screening exams for TBI and neuropsychological assessment for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans who have not been previously diagnosed with, or treated for TBI, for eligibility determination purposes.