A new report released on November 8 by the Pew Social And Demographic Trends entitled “For Many Injured Veterans, A Lifetime Of Consequences” hit the nail on the head for many of us in the military community. It makes it clear that the consequences of the past ten years of war will continue for decades. After all, a severely wounded veteran will need assistance for a considerable period of time, if not forever. Their families will be affected for years.
While all of us in the military and veteran community understand that during these times of difficult budgets, with the very real possibility of massive cuts, veterans quite rightly wonder why they seem to be singled out. Veteran retirements are not welfare, these veterans have earned their retirement pay, their disability pay, their medical care.
They paid for it, many of them with their health, with arms, legs, eyes; they paid with severe traumatic brain injuries, and PTS; to say that they knew what they were getting into, what they faced, cannot be the response of a citizenry that claims they support the troops and veterans.
As the report makes clear, those veterans who have been severely injured during their service have difficulties readjusting to civilian life, in a larger percentage than those who left the service without severe injuries. These seriously injured veterans are more likely to report suffering from PTS and they are, of course, more likely to have ongoing health problems in the future, and unfortunately more trouble holding down a job. About half of the very seriously injured veterans say they don’t think the government has lived up to their promises, while only one third of uninjured veterans are of the same mind.
Veterans’ unemployment, which is very high, is an enormous factor in how veterans see their future. The President recently announced a series of initiatives designed to help veterans connect with those who have vacancies, personalized career counseling and a new job search site for veterans.
There is also a push for tax credits for hiring veterans, and a compromise was reached between House and Senate leaders in a bill which would give disabled veterans an extra year of vocational rehab benefits, creating a job training program for unemployed older veterans (including Vietnam veterans) and establishes a nationwide licensing and credential standard for veterans seeking trade jobs. This comes from the experience of many veterans who have been trained in trade jobs, including HVAC, engine maintenance, EMTs and other military specialties that can translate into good paying trade jobs, if the training they received and the “on-the-job training” in the military is considered.
The Pew Research Study finds that only 28% of those seriously injured are currently working full-time, and the same percentage reports that the disability has kept them from getting or keeping a job at some point. About half of the seriously injured veterans state that their health is “only fair” or “poor.” Among the wounded warriors surveyed in this, post-9/11 veterans are more likely to say their transition to the civilian world has not been easy, to report suffering from PTS and to maintain that the government has not done enough to help them.
While the post-9/11 conflicts are the longest period of “continuous fighting” in our history, the largest number of wounded warriors in the United States actually served during the Vietnam War. About 33% of all injured veterans are Vietnam-era vets, only 18% of wounded vets are post 9/11 and about 26% served from 1974 to 9/11, which includes the 1990/91 Gulf War. Opinions about medical care vary widely: 55% of post-9/11 badly injured veterans rate their medical care as good and 70% of pre-9/11 veterans are positive about the medical care they received.
As the researchers state, one of the reasons for the differences being seen between the post-9/11 veterans and those who came before them “may be the immediacy of their experience.” Since we do not know how a severely wounded Vietnam vet may have felt right after he was released from the hospital, we must wonder if their attitudes have been shaped by the intervening years.
The post-9/11 seriously wounded veterans are reporting that only 49% of them are satisfied with their family life. A subset of this group, those who were married or had young children while in the service, say that the military did an “only fair or poor” job of meeting their family’s needs during deployment.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Travis K. Mendoza, U.S. Navy/Released) available at VIRIN: 101005-N-TU221-357