I began working with war Veterans suffering from trauma as a psyche officer in Vietnam. When I came home, I spent the next four decades helping Vets readjust as they came home from war. From Vietnam to the Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq and now Afghanistan. In that time, I counseled many Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and became one of the pioneers in diagnosing and treating the condition.
In 1985, I founded the National Veterans Foundation. We provide a toll-free Lifeline for Vets™ 365-days-a-year, where Veterans can call for help with any problem, and speak to fellow Veterans who are trained to be of help.
And many of our nation’s Veterans need tremendous help. With more and more Iraq and Afghanistan troops returning home everyday without adequate support services, many are struggling with readjusting to civilian life after multiple tours and so much time in the combat zone.
Some of the main issues facing today’s Veterans:
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 who didn’t serve. Vets often don’t have easily translatable civilian skills, nor do they have the network of civilian business and social contacts that other young people have. 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 1.2 million 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.
For 25 years, The National Veterans Foundation has helped our brother and sister Veterans with these problems and more. In that time, we have served more that 350,000 Vets and their family members.
Unfortunately with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Veteran population continues to grow, and so do the problems with which our Vets need help. While the NVF has a proud, quarter-century history of serving America’s Veterans, the next 25 years will be even busier, and more important.
If you know of a Veteran in need of help, please have them call the Lifeline for Vets™ at 888-777-4443.