Women Veterans Health Care
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health concern you may develop after seeing or living through a life-threatening or traumatic event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, an IED blast, or sexual assault. Women Veterans are more likely to experience some types of traumatic events, such as sexual assault and intimate partner violence, that are associated with high risk for developing PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD may include reliving the event in your head or avoiding places or things that are reminders. You may also have nightmares, anxiety, or feel numb or hyperaware of your surroundings. Sometimes symptoms may not occur until months or years after the traumatic event.
It's never too late to get help for PTSD. Treatment can help you manage symptoms or even cure PTSD. VA provides PTSD trainings for mental health care providers, more than half of whom are women. VA also has Women's Mental Health Champions at every VA medical center. They are mental health clinicians with specific training and expertise in women Veterans’ mental health. Women's Mental Health Champions can connect you with local resources and support.
What services does VA provide for PTSD?
Your VA health care provider can give referrals to PTSD specialists or therapy or prescribe certain medications. Services and treatments for PTSD include:
- Mental health assessment and screening
- Therapy: Trauma-focused psychotherapies are highly effective treatments for PTSD. "Trauma-focused" means they focus on your memory of the trauma. They may include Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). These therapies along with other types of counseling are offered in different settings:
- Individual, couples or family therapy
- Group therapy for needs like anger or stress management, or for Veterans with shared experiences, such as serving in certain combat zones or experienced similar kinds of traumas
- Residential (live-in) programs or inpatient care programs are available if you have severe PTSD symptoms that get in the way of normal daily activities.
- Medications: Some types of antidepressant medications can help PTSD by putting brain chemicals back in balance.
- Peer Specialists. Peer specialists are Veterans who have experienced and recovered from a mental health condition. As members of your treatment team, peer specialists help you design your own recovery plan, using tools such as personal goal setting and targeted coping skills training. They can also connect you with VA and local resources to help you find meaningful roles and activities in your community. You can request a referral from your VA health care provider to work with a peer specialist.
How do I access services for PTSD at VA?
If you already have a VA health care provider, talk with them about your symptoms. They can help you make an appointment for VA mental health services. Evidence-based treatments for PTSD are available at VA medical centers, community-based outpatient clinics, or Vet Centers. You may also receive PTSD care through telehealth, where you connect with a VA mental health clinician through a computer or mobile device. To set up telephone or video appointments, you can send your health care team a secure message on My HealtheVet by visiting www.myhealth.va.gov.
If you don't already use VA health care, you can also use the following online tools:
- Find out if you are eligible for VA health care.
- Enroll in VA health care if you haven't already.
- Find your local VA to learn about what services may be available and to make an appointment.
If you have questions or can't find what you're looking for, you can call, text, or chat online with the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) at 855-829-6636 to get help and find available resources and services in your area. Trained women representatives can also help you with issues such as:
- Enrolling in VA health care if you have not already
- Setting up a medical appointment in your area
- Answering questions about eligibility (including questions about disability ratings) and other VA benefits like employment, education, and home loans
WVCC representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.
All former Service members and Veterans are eligible for one year of free mental health care services, regardless of discharge status. Even if you are not eligible to receive other VA health care, you may still be able to get certain health care services, like care related to military sexual trauma (MST) (that is, experiences of sexual assault or sexual harassment during military service).
If you do not have VA health care benefits but you've served in a combat zone, get counseling, alcohol and drug assessment, and other support at one of our 300 community Vet Centers. MST-related care is also available at Vet Centers, and you don't have to have combat service. Contact a Vet Center and ask to speak with someone about getting help for PTSD.
Can I get disability compensation (monthly payments) or other benefits from VA related to PTSD?
Veterans may be able to receive compensation for conditions that started or got worse in the line of duty. This may include PTSD. Explore disability eligibility here. If you have questions, a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) representative at your nearest regional office can explain more. Find your nearest regional office.
Where can I find more information, help, and resources on PTSD?
- The PTSD Treatment Decision Aid is a great way to learn about treatments and consider which one is right for you.
- Visit the VA mental health page on PTSD to learn about other tools, programs, and self-help resources.
- Get information on military sexual trauma and how experiences of trauma can lead to PTSD.
- Get information and help for substance use.
- Download the PTSD Coach mobile app for tools to help manage PTSD symptoms.
- Access resources for suicide prevention if you are concerned about yourself or someone you know.
- Get information on VA homelessness programs.
- If you are struggling and need help right now, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net. You can call, text, or chat online with caring, qualified VA responders. Many of them are Veterans or family members of Veterans.