Empowering Veterans: A Comprehensive Guide to Own Health Advocate

Healthcare is a collaborative effort, with your primary care professional, specialists, pharmacists, mental health professionals, and yourself forming a crucial team. While medical experts contribute their knowledge, you are the authority on your body and life experiences.

The Power of Taking the Lead

People who actively participate in their healthcare tend to experience better treatment outcomes, as per a trusted 2022 study. Taking the lead involves asking questions, following up, and assuming a leadership role in your care decisions.

Unique Healthcare Needs of Veterans

As a Veteran, your healthcare needs are distinct, empowering you to voice concerns when you feel your healthcare team isn’t addressing them. However, expressing yourself in a healthcare setting, particularly with unique needs, can be challenging.

Advocating for Yourself in Healthcare

Understand Your Healthcare Rights

In any healthcare setting, patients have rights, including being treated with dignity and respect, expressing personal beliefs, being informed about treatment risks and benefits, and the right to decide on treatment cessation.

Know Your VA Healthcare Benefits

Take an active role by understanding your VA healthcare benefits. Familiarize yourself with additional assistance from employer insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid for pharmacy costs, transportation, meals, and more.

How to Be Your Own Health Advocate

Healthcare visits can be brief, so preparation is key to advocating for yourself. Here’s a guide to ensure you get the most from your appointments:

Effective Communication

Remember, communication is a two-way street. If anything a healthcare professional says is unclear, ask for clarification.

Importance of Self-Care

Self-care involves actions that promote well-being, such as healthy eating, exercise, stress management, and quality sleep. Studies show that Veterans engaging in self-care programs exhibit better mental states.

Supporting Your Mental Health

While advocating for physical health is crucial, don’t neglect mental health. Veterans, more than the general population, may face conditions like PTSD and depression. The VA offers mental health services, including a whole health inventory for self-assessment.

Seeking Help

If you’re experiencing mental health concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care professional or contact the Veterans Crisis line at 988, 838255 (text), or 800-799-4889 (TTY for hearing loss).

Advocacy Resources for Veterans

For assistance in accessing care, explore these resources:

VA Patient Advocates

VA Patient Advocates are professionals designated to assist veterans in navigating the complexities of the healthcare system. These advocates work within the Veterans Affairs (VA) system and are dedicated to ensuring that veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve. They act as intermediaries between veterans and healthcare providers, addressing concerns, facilitating communication, and helping veterans understand and access the services available to them.

Mental Health Care Through the VA

The VA provides comprehensive mental health care services for veterans. This includes a range of programs and treatments to address mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and more. Mental health care through the VA encompasses both in-person and online services, ensuring accessibility and flexibility for veterans seeking support for their mental well-being.

Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a government agency that plays a vital role in providing resources and assistance for individuals dealing with mental health and substance use disorders. For veterans facing challenges related to substance use, SAMHSA offers support, treatment options, and valuable information to help them navigate and overcome these issues.

Assistance for Family Caregivers

Recognizing the importance of the support network around veterans, there are programs and resources specifically designed to assist family caregivers. These initiatives aim to provide support, education, and resources for individuals who take on the responsibility of caring for a veteran. Assistance for family caregivers may include financial support, counseling services, and access to community resources to ensure the well-being of both the veteran and their caregiver.

Guide for Talking With Your Doctor

Effective communication between veterans and their healthcare providers is crucial for optimal care. The Guide for Talking With Your Doctor is a resource that offers practical advice and tips on how veterans can communicate openly and effectively with their healthcare professionals. It may cover topics such as preparing for appointments, asking relevant questions, and expressing concerns, empowering veterans to actively participate in decisions about their health.

These resources collectively contribute to the holistic well-being of veterans, addressing their physical and mental health needs, providing support for their families, and empowering them to navigate the healthcare system with confidence and clarity.

The Importance of Advocates

Even when proficient at self-advocacy, having someone else, be it a family member, friend, or professional patient advocate, can be beneficial. They can help navigate complex healthcare and benefits systems.


Advocating for your health, especially as a Veteran, is crucial. It involves expressing your needs, when you need them, and how you want them met. While it’s a skill you can refine, don’t hesitate to seek assistance when necessary. Remember, advocating for yourself can also mean enlisting the help of others when needed.


How can I effectively communicate with my healthcare provider as a veteran?

Effective communication involves preparing for appointments, asking questions, and expressing concerns. Be proactive in seeking clarification on any unclear information provided by your healthcare professional.

What are some self-care programs offered by the VA for veterans?

The VA offers a variety of self-care programs, including nutrition counseling, tobacco cessation support, and mental health care. These programs aim to enhance veterans’ overall well-being and are accessible to address specific health needs.

How can family caregivers receive assistance and support?

Family caregivers can access assistance through programs designed to provide financial support, counseling services, and access to community resources. These initiatives recognize the crucial role caregivers play in supporting veterans and aim to ensure their well-being too.

What should I do if I’m facing mental health concerns as a veteran?

If you’re experiencing mental health concerns, reach out to your primary care professional or contact the Veterans Crisis line at 988, 838255 (text), or 800-799-4889 (TTY for hearing loss). Immediate help is available 24/7.

How can veterans enlist the help of advocates in navigating healthcare systems?

Even when proficient at self-advocacy, veterans can seek assistance from family members, friends, or professional patient advocates. These advocates can help navigate the complex healthcare and benefits systems, ensuring veterans get the support they need.

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