Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has special mental health needs. Here's how to help them.

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Are you or veteran or do you know a veteran who's recently returned to civilian life?

With the return of troops from Iraq and more returning from Afghanistan, the number of veterans in the region is growing. Indeed, according to U.S. Census figures, there were 175,000 veterans in 2009 in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

And, while many veterans return home without physical or emotional injuries, some veterans may need assistance in overcoming physical injuries, traumatic brain injuries or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during their transition.

"Veterans are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan with leadership skills, a strong work ethic and a passion for service and are well-prepared to take a prominent role in local businesses and organizations," said John Javis, director of special project at the Mental Health Association of Nassau County, which along with the Veterans Administration Hospital, as well as other agencies, is providing assistance to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in making the transition to civilian life.

Some veterans, however, are experiencing such challenges as difficulty in falling asleep; becoming emotionally detached from family and friends, demonstrating inappropriate anger with others, driving too fast, drinking too much alcohol or feeling guilty about buddies who were wounded or killed.

There's help available. "There are many benefits and services available to meet the needs of veterans of recent conflicts," said Javis.
Veterans dealing with stress, family issues and employment issues can access a vast array of benefits and services through the VA and other community organizations.

In addition, there is Post 9/11 GI Bill education assistance, VA home loans and other benefits that are available to help veterans make a successful transition back to their communities.

"There is help, there are benefits and there are answers," said Javis. "These men and women who served our country have earned them."

If you belong to an organization that would like to have a speaker discuss these issues, contact the Mental Health Association of Nassau County to schedule a presentation by calling (516) 489-2322, ext 1111.
For information regarding the needs of older veterans call the VA Hospital in Northport at (800) 444-0001, or call the Mental Health Association at (516) 504-HELP.