Veterans face many problems during their transition from active duty to civilian life, including frequently inadequate healthcare services.
Although two major wars are supposedly coming to an end in Iraq and Afghanistan, for many, the fight is endless.
Veterans are struggling with the transition between active duty and civilian life, or “reverse boot camp,” and are not receiving the help they need. Mental health issues are among the most profound problems that veterans face. Whitehouse.gov, the official White House website, claims that approximately one in six of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, or more than 300,000 troops, suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Additionally, according to the website, “since 2000, more than 44,000 of those troops have suffered at least a moderate-grade traumatic brain injury.”
Many veterans also struggle with unemployment, thoughts of suicide, and alcoholism. New York Times reporter Timothy
Williams claims that the suicide rate among veterans eclipsed the number of deaths among active-duty troops in 2012.
The Veterans Administration (VA) promises five years of free healthcare to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for any illnesses or injuries associated with their service. The VA’s commitment statement does not reveal how excruciatingly long and complex the application process for benefits can be, as veterans must prove to the VA that their health issues are service-related.
According to Charles Sheehan-Miles, co-founder of the non-profit Veterans for Common Sense, as of January 11, the “VA [had] treated more than 834,000 new, first-time Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran patients…Among those are 445,000 diagnosed with mental health conditions.”
Sheehan-Miles claims that the VA has received over 750,000 disability claims from recent war veterans, but that a mere half of PTSD claims were approved. In a 2012 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America member survey, two out of three veterans claimed they are not receiving enough mental healthcare. Additionally, three-fourths said that VA counselors should have been in the military or been specially trained. The survey also revealed that the majority of VA members believe the VA is doing a good job of reaching out to troops, but the same approval was not expressed for the Department of Defense, Congress, or the President.
According to the White House website, on April 11 First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced a new commitment to veteran healthcare, promising that “3 million nurses, through 150 nursing organizations and 500 nursing schools will be educated on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury in the coming years.”
Furthermore, Obama signed an executive order on August 31 to improve mental health services and strengthen suicide prevention. Progress is being made in the area of veteran unemployment, but no substantial changes have been made to improve veteran healthcare. If veterans are not receiving the healthcare they need, they will not be suitable for the workforce, and could potentially join the ranks of the estimated 62,619 homeless veterans.
White House blogger Macon Phillips reports that the Obama administration requested “the largest single-year increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs in three decades … [to] significantly [expand] coverage … to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded.”
Chad Faber, Knight Family Scholars Program director, Middle School cross country coach, Upper School history teacher, and veteran, reflects on veteran healthcare, stating: “It’s a convoluted system and [it’s] been stressed recently because of so many people coming back. The biggest problem is learning how to gain access to the system and figuring out what is available. Many people who went into the military years ago did not know all of the problems they were going to face when they came back.”
On March 19, President Obama stated that “for too long, we’ve fallen short of meeting [our] commitment [to veterans]. Too many wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don’t receive the support that they’ve earned. Too many who once wore our nation’s uniform now sleep in our nation’s streets.”