VETERANS

There are a lot of different issues that face veterans and their transitions to civilian life. We hope to enlighten and share some that are less obvious.

  • Estimated 22 veterans kill themselves every day, according to a 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs study.
  • 2,500 active-duty military personnel have committed suicide since 2001
  • Work-related problems associated w/PTSD cost US businesses an estimated $3 billion/year
  • The waiting time to see a VA mental health care practitioner is 41 days
  • Each yr 160,000 active-duty and 95,000 National Guard & Reserve personnel will retire and enter the VA healthcare system
  • Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, more than 2 million brave men and women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan; nearly one million have been deployed more than once. If you or a veteran you know needs help, here is a great resource: http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/Default.aspx

Soldiers bear both seen and unseen scars of war. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—which can include flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares and depression—can make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a job, remain in a committed relationship, fulfill parenting responsibilities and enjoy life. In the most severe cases it leads to suicide. The estimated 22 veterans that commit suicide every day does not include veterans that take their lives in less obvious ways such as driving a car into a tree or purposefully partaking in extreme dangerous behavior that lead to death.

Remarkably, mental health services for veterans are not automatically covered by TRICARE, the military health insurance system. In addition, there is no continuity of mental health care during the transition from military to civilian status.

Veteran unemployment is nearly twice the national average. Young Veterans who joined the military after high school and went off to war are at a disadvantage when competing for civilian jobs with peers that stayed in the civilian world and perhaps received a college degree. Veterans often do not have skills that are easily translatable into the civilian world. They are also at a disadvantage in the fact that they lack the civilian contacts and social network that often lead opportunities. Unless they apply with companies who place a priority on hiring Veterans, they are in a tough spot competing with other job seekers.

One out of every three Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans suffers from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or a combination of the two due to combat trauma. Upon returning home, our troops are not receiving proper medical and psychological evaluation or counseling. It’s up to them to seek the help they need and often this help is not easy to find or to access.

There is a backlog of claims at the Veterans Administration. The VA application process remains complicated and adversarial. Veterans are not automatically enrolled in the VA, as many people think, when they finish their military service. They need help finding VA facilities, completing complicated applications, managing the application process and appealing rejected claims. Many Veterans who are disabled and unable to work due to war trauma are waiting months and years for benefits they were promised and have earned. This results in many Vets with significant financial problems that can end up homeless or worse.

A third of all homeless citizens in America are Veterans. Due to many of the factors discussed here, Veterans with distinguished, even heroic, military records are ending up living on the streets. Because of untreated PTSD or TBI and self medication with drugs and alcohol, many Veterans are finding themselves in conflict with the criminal justice system. Special Veterans Courts are the appropriate response to these problems. These courts take into consideration a Vet’s military service and the war experiences and lack of readjustment services that cause them to engage in anti-social behaviors. Veterans’ courts focus on treatment and rehabilitation rather than jail time. Unfortunately, only a handful of these courts exist in the U.S.