Mental health and symptom validity concerns among justice-involved veterans
Mental health concerns and criminal justice involvement are two undeniably prevalent issues amongst military service members in the United States. Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) have been established in growing numbers across the country in an effort to rehabilitate justice-involved veterans (JIVs) with mental health problems; however, research pertaining to the specific characteristics and needs of this subgroup is sparse. This study sought to clarify the nature of JIV mental health concerns and the accuracy of reported symptomatology in order to better inform identification, assessment, and rehabilitation of those who are most in need. Although limited in sample size, the results of this study suggest that the mental health profiles of JIVs are not vastly different from other incarcerated individuals. Further, JIVs are no more likely to inaccurately represent their distress/symptoms, as compared to other forensic populations. Results also indicate that veterans may exhibit lower levels of boldness than their incarcerated civilian counterparts. This may reflect the characteristics that drew individuals to the military in the first place, and were reinforced throughout their time in service. These preliminary findings suggest that JIVs would benefit from rehabilitation models similar to those developed for the general population, such as mental health courts, drug courts, and specific programming within incarcerated settings. Incorporating military values, customs, and courtesies into the culture of these programs would likely enhance veterans’ commitment to treatment and ultimately contribute to more lasting positive outcomes.