Combat deployment and reintegration are challenging for service members and their families. Although family involvement in mental health care is increasing in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system, little is known about family members' preferences for services. This study elicited the perspectives of returning Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder and their families regarding family involvement in veterans' mental health care. Semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with 47 veterans receiving care for posttraumatic stress disorder at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System or Oklahoma City VA Medical Center and 36 veteran-designated family members. Interviews addressed perceived needs related to veterans' readjustment to civilian life, interest in family involvement in joint veteran/family programs, and desired family program content. Interview data were analyzed using content analysis and constant comparison. Both groups strongly supported inclusion of family members in programs to facilitate veterans' postdeployment readjustment and reintegration into civilian life. Both desired program content focused on information, practical skills, support, and gaining perspective on the other's experience. Although family and veteran perspectives were similar, family members placed greater emphasis on parenting-related issues and the kinds of support they and their children needed during and after deployment. To our knowledge, this is the first published report on preferences regarding VA postdeployment reintegration support that incorporates the perspectives of returning male and female veterans and those of their families. Findings will help VA and community providers working with returning veterans tailor services to the needs and preferences of this important-to-engage population.
- Service preferences