An Everlasting Struggle of Veterans

On average, 22 U.S veterans commit suicide every day (SAMHSA). This is a troubling report, and for understanding in the matter, some deeper digging had to be performed. Coming back from war and transitioning into society is a struggle for most veterans without the added on difficulties they have such as getting employed, pursuing any further education and the increased risk of homelessness due to poverty and lack of a support system. The stress of receiving these benefits can add to the depression and suicidal rates in veterans. They begin to have additional problems with their mental health. According to SAMHSA, Three out of five veterans who died by suicide were diagnosed as having a mental health condition. These veterans are struggling to get the help they need and deserve and we should implement and volunteer in more programs to create a source of support for those who risked their lives to keep our country safe.

Veterans alone are ten percent of the homeless population in the United States (SAMHSA). That means that approximately 50,000 veterans are homeless. To better understand why this happens in such high numbers people need to understand most veterans that are homeless went into service from low-income families and areas. When they come back there usually is no family and monetary support system for them to rely on. If they come back with any physical or mental disablements it becomes another battle for survival with the pressure of assimilating back into society and finding a job that fits their new lifestyle and mindset. When they struggle to bring in an income and they have bills piling up the spiral into a black hole of debt, house eviction, and stress is rapid. There are many VA offices, set up in all 50 states in the United States that are there for veterans to find help. The VA even has a phone line in place for veterans who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless.

Although they have the line, there are hardly any systems set up to let people know what it is. There is no person physically there supporting them while trying to find a helping hand. They begin to feel alone and the depression and suicidal thoughts take over. Even though the majority are able to drive to get help, there are a few who are not able to drive due to disabilities, not having a driver’s license, or even not having a car. These homeless veterans are left stranded with no support from family, and government programs struggling to find them. Not only do some of these veterans have a hard time getting the help they so desperately need, but they also have a hard time bringing themselves to ask or seek help.

Now, most of the time when we see homeless people the majority will look at them as slackers looking for a free handout. We think that they should just get a job and take out a loan. In the case of our veterans, we may believe that if they had the courage to fight in wars surely they can keep a job. They are just being difficult. However, things always tend to be more complicated and complex than what shows on the surface. The office jobs that they can be employed at without having to earn a college degree do not suit their specific needs after dealing with the high intensity, life-changing line of work they were previously in. Some cannot handle these jobs which leaves them with nowhere to turn other than the VA which can be a long process going through and filling out paperwork. A task that can prove to be difficult and confusing to most veterans according to a nationwide survey from the VA in 2010 …fewer than half of veterans understand their benefits, whether it was medical care, college tuition or pension and disability payments(Walsh).

Not only do veterans endure physical trauma at war but they also suffer extreme mental trauma from what they have seen and done while protecting our country. Many veterans struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) every day and have a hard time connecting with family and enjoying the simple life that non-veterans enjoy. They can act out and have a hard time controlling themselves in an environment where there is much oppression to the physical violence they are so used to. This leads them to become jobless, which if not intervened, becomes homelessness.

To continue on veterans and getting employed after duty. The unemployment rates for veterans are higher in all age categories than non-veterans. The highest though, being 18-24-year-olds with a 21.6 percent out of 2,554 in the survey conducted by CPS being unemployed (Loughran 7). The lowest being the age group 31-65 with a .7 percent difference between the unemployment rates of veterans and non-veterans. A few jobs that involve skills learned and used in the military are an intelligence analyst, management consultant, logistics analyst, pilot, FBI agent, and security manager. These jobs are better suited for them and value the life skills they learned while in service. Although these jobs are great for veterans, many cannot apply for them due to lack of schooling. This leaves them fighting alongside educated civilians also struggling, for unskilled or lower positions.

A few more reasons on why veterans may be unemployed is due to some being disabled from service and no longer able to do labor jobs or even any job at all. Some went into the military right after high school and are unable to get a job that suits their needs without a degree. When they do decide to go to college they oftentimes need support to go through the steps of different programs for receiving help on getting their college education funded, which is not available in all states. This is where people can step in to give them a helping hand, by either just helping them through the process and being a support system for them or even helping to fund scholarships for veterans who are trying to make a positive change in their life.

They do get benefits that others do not and with a college degree could have many high paying jobs that would be better suited for them and ones in which they have experience for, giving them an edge to their competition. They even have businesses that want a veteran like them to join their company, and also have job representatives specifically for them at American Job Centers.

Even though veterans may get assistance on finding a job, most of the time it is not getting the job that is the struggle but keeping it. PTSD keeps them from reintegrating into society and be able to do their job well. The circumstances and conditions that these soldiers went through while in service is most of the time a traumatic experience and a period of growth and learning of the hardships and dark parts that life can sometimes present. It is not an easy thing what they have to do, from loss of close friends in combat to many deployments. It affects most to a point where they need more than just a job; they need emotional support and somebody to guide them through the process of going to college to get a degree to qualify them for better jobs suited for them and their needs.

Building on the conversation of mental conditions brought on by their previous line of duty, many encounter PTSD on the road back to normalcy. PTSD affects 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 11 percent of Afghanistan veterans, and 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans (Veterans Statistics: PTSD, Depression, TBI, Suicide). PTSD occurs when somebody goes through a traumatic experience that their brain can not totally comprehend. To cope with the pain, the brain resorts to one of three functions. There is hyperarousal, re-experiencing, and numbing/avoidance. All three of these coping mechanisms are detrimental to the vet’s mind and body. The effects of PTSD create a deep distrust of natural laws and, in the worst cases, cause a complete loss of function as the sufferer retreats into anxiety and depression.(The Far-reaching Effects of PTSD in America).

Depression, acting out of violence, and suicidal thoughts from injuries and war trauma are also common among veterans and can be a side effect to PTSD. This affects their everyday lives in many ways, causing them to be on edge, being irritable, having insomnia, and withdrawing from friends and family. Mandatory screening done after they return from duty would be helpful to diagnose all veterans and catch any problems with mental and physical health before it spirals out of control, but there is no mandatory screening and if a veteran does not meet the requirements for free health care then they will have to pay out of pocket and statistically speaking many veterans do not have much money to spare in the first place.

The VA has started a program implementing house calls for lonely veterans for those in rural areas who statistically struggle the most. This helps elderly veterans and veterans with disabilities keeping them from driving to their nearest VA hospital. This is also great for veterans who do not have a strong support system. It is great for keeping up with veterans who have come out of inpatient mental health care.

Although there is a program that is beginning to be implemented for veterans coming out of being helped it does not serve those who are still living with their disabilities and have not yet sought out help. For these people, this program does not affect or help them.

There are many kind acts that you can take part in to help the veterans around you. By volunteering for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DAV) Transportation network you can drive a veteran to their doctor’s appointments. To help veterans with mobile disabilities and PTSD you can train a service dog. It takes around two years and $33,000 to properly train a service dog so donations and training volunteers are much appreciated. Programs like Patriot Paws and Puppy Jake help to train these service dogs. Helping a vet train for jobs and getting them started in programs such as Hire Heros, a program that helps vets gain the skills needed to find a post-military career, can put them on the right path to gaining confidence and independence during their time reintegrating back into society. You can also volunteer at a VA hospital where there are many jobs that you can do and it all makes a huge impact for the veterans who come. Another thing that may even be the most important is getting to know your surrounding vets and providing your company to those who are often times lonely and have no one to lean on. You can also show your appreciation by helping them with anything ranging from yard work to picking up the groceries, little things that they might have trouble doing on their own. This all makes a big difference for the vets in your community.

You may think you pay your taxes to help fund the VA programs and you do not have enough time in your busy schedule to volunteer. That would be a valid excuse, but not all of the VA programs help all of the veterans who need it. Their influence does only so much and they need you to help them on a personal level, one where they cannot reach. There needs to be more effort put into helping our veterans.

Veterans fight for their lives do not stop when their service has ended. They often times do not get the help they sorely need. They struggle with unseen illnesses and have a hard time asking for help, or when they do it is difficult to get. It is up to us to provide that for the men and women who so bravely fought for the freedoms we have today.

Work Cited

  1. Loughran, David S. The Facts About Veteran Unemployment. Why Is Veteran Unemployment So High?, RAND Corporation, 2014, pp. 5“16. JSTOR. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt7zvzf4.9?seq=12#metadata_info_tab_contents
  2. SAMHSA Critical Issues Facing Veterans and Military Families, 2018. Web. https://www.samhsa.gov/veterans-military-families/critical-issues
  3. National Veterans Foundation The Far-reaching Effects of PTSD in Veterans, 2015. Web. https://nvf.org/effects-of-ptsd-in-veterans/
  4. Veterans statistics: PTSD, Depression, TBI, Suicide. Veterans and PTSD. September 20, 2015. Web. www.veteransandptsd.com/PTSD-statistics.html
  5. NPR Without Help, Navigating Benefits Can Be Overwhelming For Veterans, 2015. Web. https://www.npr.org/2015/01/14/374055310/indiana-s-veterans-service-officers-operate-on-a-shoe-string
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An Everlasting Struggle Of Veterans. (2019, Apr 15). Retrieved June 23, 2021 , from
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