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What are we doing for our vets?

For some, she said, it's a couple of weeks or months, for others it could be years. But the VA is there for them, as long as they make the first step.

A network of support

In spite of the benefits available to returning combat veterans, like five years of free health care for combat-related injuries and illnesses, getting them in the door is still a challenge.

"As we know, many coming out of the military are reluctant to seek both medical care or behavioral health care for any of their related symptoms," Love said.

Though health care is a hot topic these days, it will move down the priority list for many veterans who have a list of other pressing issues to deal with, like finding a job.

"So when we go to guard and reserve units, often times we're doing work with the families to educate them on what this may be and how to access resources," Love said.

Symptoms of an injury or illness, like post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, can go undetected during the first few hectic weeks or months back home. So it's important for family members to be aware of the resources available to returning vets in case those symptoms to present themselves.

"It may be a spouse or significant other, or a parent, who calls and says, 'I need to get some help for my son who's just come back... what do you have?'" Love said.

As always, the first step is for the veteran to visit the VA and become enrolled in the program, if eligible, and get evaluated.

Spread the word

Bill Hoffman, outreach coordinator at Syracuse VA Medical Center, understands why returning combat veterans don't make the VA their first stop once they're stateside: it wasn't until he became employed at VA that he realized what benefits were available to him.

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