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Co-Occurring Disorders and Military Justice

Program Planning Considerations

When planning programs to meet the behavioral health needs of justice-involved veterans with mental and substance use disorders, these are points to consider.


  • Along with a significant portion of veterans who have developed mental and substance use disorders, many experienced traumatic brain injuries during deployment.
  • The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder and related disorders increase during six months after homecoming.
  • One in three veterans in jail have a mental disorder. At least half have a substance use disorder.
  • Many veterans in jail experienced long term homelessness and unemployment prior to incarceration.
  • Younger veterans in contact with the justice system are less likely to be connected with VA healthcare than older veterans.

Risk Factors

  • During deployment several factors increase the likelihood of behavioral health problems and acute stress, including multiple deployments, shortened dwell time, and combat exposure.
  • Many veterans with mental and substance use disorders do not seek treatment because of stigma.


  • Screening for military status may help criminal justice agencies identify veterans.
  • Screening may be conducted for mental and substance use disorders as well as specifically for trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder.


  • Cross-systems partnerships that represent, at a minimum, behavioral health, criminal justice, and veterans services can direct and provide leadership for the development of programs for veterans.
  • Several initiatives of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are important for integrating into planning and services approaches.
  • Veterans who have received behavioral services and been in contact with the justice system are integral partners in the development of policies, procedures and services for justice-involved veterans with co-occurring disorders.


  • Trauma-specific services are valuable in helping veterans manage the aftereffects of traumatic events.
  • Peer-based services can help support veterans receiving services and range from volunteer mentors to certified peer specialists.

Women Veterans

  • One in five women veterans have experienced military sexual trauma.
  • Although women veterans are less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than men veterans, it is a result of lower exposure to combat than men.

Resources and Links

  • These web pages provide resources on homeless prevention services, housing support services, treatment, employment, benefits, homeless coordinators, and the national call center for homeless veterans, their family members and veterans at risk of becoming homeless. The web pages also provides additional resources on other Non-VA resources for homeless assistance and the National Center of Homelessness among Veterans.

  • This report on health-related challenges of New York veterans is intended to inform state-level planning for veterans' services, their family members, and caregivers.