Understanding and caring for Veterans

Last modified: May 6, 2021

An important component of delivering quality care to Veterans is the health care professional’s awareness of their patients’ military history. Awareness of this history can help you address a Veteran’s unique behavioral and medical health needs.[1] There are also resources available to help you ask the questions and understand more about a patient’s military background.

Optum VA CCN study

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) created the VA Community Care Network (VA CCN) to help Veterans access health care services in the community. Optum, the third-party administrator for Regions 1, 2 and 3 of the VA CCN, recently studied how often a patient’s military history was documented for an office visit.

Outside studies have shown that patients are asked about their military service in half or less of office visits:

  • 50%[2] of behavioral health
  • 19%[3] of medical

Optum found that even though more health care professionals participating in VA CCN asked about military service, there’s room for improvement:

  • 78% of behavioral health care professionals
  • 42% of medical health care professionals

Resources for health care professionals

The chance to ask a patient about their military history can help you make connections to their health care needs. Resources to help you do this are available to all health care professionals.

At mentalhealth.va.gov/communityproviders, VA offers screening questions and military culture information.

Optum has resources at provider.vacommunitycare.com > Training & Guides to help you better understand military culture and Veteran health care concerns, including:


[1] Burgo-Black, A.L., Brown, J.L., Boyce, R.M, & Hunt, S.C. (2016). The importance of taking a military history. Public Health Reports, 131(5) 711-713. Retrieved from doi.org/10.1177/0033354916660073.
[1] Tanielian, T., Farris, C., Epley, C., et al. (2014). Ready to serve: Community-based provider capacity to deliver culturally competent, quality mental health care to Veterans and their families. RAND Corporation, RR-806-UNHF. Retrieved from doi.org/10.7249/RR806.
[1] Tanielian, T., Farmer, C.M., Burns, R.M., et al. (2018). Ready or not? Assessing the capacity of New York State health care providers to meet the needs of Veterans. RAND Corporation, RR-2298-NYSHF. Retrieved from doi.org/10.7249/RR2298.