Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Veterans come from all walks of life and face a lot of issues. They need our support now more than ever.
It appears that America shows support for our American Veterans. Veterans come from all walks of life and different cultures and in some cases other countries. This is worn as a badge of pride that most veterans feel they are appreciated for volunteering in to the armed services. However, the veteran community has been facing a plethora of issues, and current programs and services are not proactive enough to help catch every veteran that is suffering, ranging from mental illnesses, addiction, and lack of support. The statistics are staggering: the Department of Veteran Affairs (the VA) has reported roughly 6,000 veteran suicides a year since 2003. The years 2019 and 2020 have not been counted and reported to the public; however, from 2003-2018, there have been approximately 90,000 suicides in the veteran community. In 2003, there were 25 million American Veterans and today the United States has approximately 20.5 million, as reported by the VA in 2018. Despite the fact that the veteran population has shrunk the last two decades, the suicide rate has remained the same, which means that the rate is actually increasing.
Since 2001, war casualties have totaled approximately 6,200. But for many veterans returning home, the battle is not over as they begin their transition to civilian life. Upon entering the military, there is structure, policy and procedure for every aspect of the life. Basic training recruits are normally between the ages of 18to 22. These young adults are broken down and built to live a military lifestyle, not a civilian lifestyle, which is suitable while in the military, but presents issues for many individuals that subsequently leave the military. Though many veterans have successfully transitioned to civilian life, the veteran suicide rate and veterans suffering from unseen wounds tell a different story.
A common assumption is that there are programs in place to support veterans who experience depression, PTSD, and any number of other issues upon re-entering civilian life. (However, the eligibility requirements for accessing these resources are similar to that of a civilian, and this delays a veteran getting the support he or she may need urgently). The qualifying factors for services from most organizations or programs are as follows: delinquency on bills, no vehicle ownership, currently homeless, no money in the bank account, and so on. These organizations are not necessarily at fault for requiring the individual to be experiencing such severe mitigating factors in life. Instead, it lies more with the federal government and how they make certain requirements for organizations to receive government funding to help the veteran population. This creates a vicious cycle of not promoting mental health and stability in one’s life until a person feels they have lost everything. Reaching this low point can trigger addiction and can lead to further problems, including a path to suicide.
The government has not created a program or service that is truly proactive in supporting and guiding veterans during and after their transition process, particularly when it comes to navigating mental health care. This is why it is imperative that you and others who may know a veteran reach out and connect with them to see if you can become part of their social support system. Veterans transitioning to civilian life are often in an incredibly vulnerable position; they may have lost their family or social support system, and (struggle to find purpose in their civilian life.) direction to help motivate them into a career path or life they choose to pursue.
I intend to develop a policy and bring forth to Congress and to the President, one that will change how we expect the transition process to take place for returning veterans. The policy engages directly with D.O.D. and the V.A. in how they move active duty service members into the transition process ensuring a social support system, medical care, and the drive to live their life in the way that makes them successful.