A Veteran (from Latin vetus, meaning "old") is a person who has had long service or experience in a particular occupation or field. A military veteran is a person who has served and is no longer serving in the armed forces. Those veterans that have had direct exposure to acts of military conflict may also be referred to as war veterans (although not all military conflicts, or areas in which armed combat takes place, are necessarily referred to as wars). A combat veteran is a person who has fought in combat during a war or a skirmish against a declared enemy and may still be serving in the military.
Veteran issues are among some of the most disturbing we have in the U.S.. The numbers on the rate of suicide among our heros and warriors is at an alarming rate. Is there a correlation between PTSD, physical injures and higher rates of alcohol and substance abuse? Does acceptance back into society and homelessness weigh in on these issues? One would have to think they do.
There is a plethora of information on our veterans and of course among the most disturbing is the aforementioned rate of suicides. In a study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (aka VA) which was updated in late 2018 and which gathered information from 2005 to 2016 shows that approximately 6,000 veterans commit this disturbing act every year. The study breaks down the data in some detail on age, gender and how suicides are committed. The bottom line is that over 16 of our finest die needlessly every single day! Prior reports were 22 a day and the National Veteran Foundation believes the real number to be 24-25 veterans each day. Reaching this population and getting them help is an all-hands effort.
In yet another report from the VA (2014), veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental overdoses. It is mentioned and discussed in various reports that returning soldiers and veterans are self-medicating to combat the pressures they have as they transition home or deal with issues such as PTSD, physical or mental injuries or all of the above. There is also a correlation between the significance of the injuries and the amount of substance abuse. The more affected the veteran, the greater the chance the drug abuse turns into drug dependence in which they rely on the substance to make it through the day.
It would then not be a far leap to infer from these studies how a veteran could end up financially pinched or out of a job with little hope of finding new employment. In a report labeled “2018 HUD Exchange Point in Time Estimate of Veteran Homelessness in US” there were 37,878 homeless veterans of which 23,312 were sheltered &14,566 were unsheltered. The report breaks down the number of homeless veterans per county throughout the U.S. and states that higher rates of homelessness occur in Western States and larger metropolitan areas. Veterans consist of less than ten percent of the overall homeless population and the Department of Labor reported as of November 2018 that the current unemployment rate was 3.1 percent - down from 12.1 percent in 2011.
In a VA Guest Post dated November 17, 2014, Chris Marvin wrote:
“What assumptions do you make when you encounter a homeless person?
According to a recent survey, when shown a photo of a man that appears to be homeless, one third of respondents label him as having a mental health issue. Nearly one-in-five believe that he has a criminal past. And, the second most popular response — after the 87-percent of people who identify the man as homeless—almost half of respondents label the homeless-looking person as a military Veteran.” He continues to spell out the split in how Americans perceive our veterans and how the majority 70 percent of people believe our returning veterans have a positive impact on our country’s economy and 63 percent of people agree that military service provides post-9/11 veterans with skills and trying that make them successful and positive contributors to their communities.
Our opportunities in this great Nation stem from our God-given freedoms so eloquently scribed by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence. Our freedom was won at a cost and keeping comes at a cost. Thankfully we have those who are willing to answer the calling but it is our responsibility as a grateful Nation to take care of our heros.