Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2013

First Page






Source Publication Abbreviation

Mental Health L. & Pol'y J


This article builds on our understanding by focusing on the specific context of veterans who have psychological disability claims in the VA disability system. This is a context in which culturally aware communication can be of critical importance to the outcome of a veteran’s claim and future livelihood. This article does not presume to advise mental health professionals on cross-cultural counseling practices. Much has already been written on that subject, including in the legal context.18 It also does not attempt to answer the empirical question of how culturally un-informed assessment impacts diagnosis, for instance whether it results in over-diagnosis, under-diagnosis, or misdiagnosis of psycholorgical disabilities. Instead, this article proposes that the intersection of culture and mental health is a uniquely important topic of conversation and development for lawyers representing veterans with psychological disability claims. The first section provides a brief overview of psychological disability claims in the Department of Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension system. The second explores how culture interacts with mental health and the implications of this interaction on psychological diagnosis and treatment. After reviewing some important illustrations of culture’s impact on diagnosis in the VA, the article identifies points in the VA disability claims process where veterans’ advocates who are aware of and educated in their clients’ cultural backgrounds and identities may advocate for culturally sensitive psychological diagnosis, disability rating, and treatment.