Life after serving in the military can pose numerous challenges to veterans and their loved ones. For some, returning home may feel like another battle with a variety of problems that require understanding and acceptance to overcome.
Veterans today have a lot to offer society after their service, and often all they need is a helping hand or a dependable support system. The discipline they earn and the skills they learn in the armed forces are beneficial to society once they re-join the civilian workforce.
Unfortunately, while veterans today bring unique skills to the table, they also face unique hurdles such as higher than average rates of suicide, homelessness, depression, and unemployment. However, with the help of their family, friends, and communities, they can overcome them.
A helping hand at the right time goes a long way in helping veterans today integrate back into society, earn a living, and become productive members.
How Many Veterans Are in America Today?
There are 18.8 million veterans today in the U.S., which is 7.6 percent of the population. Many are predominantly male (91.6 percent). Over 45 percent of veterans are aged 55 years and above, and many served during World War II as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars.
However, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars increase every year. As of 2015, roughly one-quarter of the total number of U.S. Veterans served during the first and second Gulf War era. In 2015, minorities made up only 23.6 percent of the population, but they will increase over time.
Veterans (on average) have higher education rates than non-veterans, with 37.1 percent having completed some college or associate degree and another 27.7 percent attained a bachelor's degree or higher.
With a large number of those who served among us today, we all must understand ways we can support veterans as thanks for their service. Here are five common challenges veterans are currently facing.
1. Adjusting Back to Civilian Life
Many veterans today name adjusting back to civilian everyday life as their most significant challenge. They feel that private companies fail to make the adjustment easier on them.
A 2015 report by Rally point/Rasmussen surveyed retired and active military personnel and found that 38 percent considered the transition and adjustment back to everyday life the major challenge they face.
The biggest obstacles facing veterans' employment status revolve around translating a military background into the mainstream civilian work experience. Other issues include finding employment while disabled and meeting licensing requirements in specialized industries.
80% of jobs in the military have a civilian counterpart, but licensing requirements may differ. Some require veterans to enroll in additional courses even if they have already mastered the field while serving. What's more, testing and training requirements may vary among states.
The V.A. (United States Dept. of Veterans Affairs) does provide several services to assist with employment transitions, such as military skills translation, exclusive unemployment benefits, and vocational rehabilitation, and employment.
From pain and illness to mental health issues that persist long after they return home, veterans face numerous wellness problems that are unique to their service. These troubles include physical, psychological, and psychosocial issues.
Some common physical issues of veterans today include nonspecific symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and cognitive disturbances like concentration and memory problems. The primary health conditions they face include:
- Mental health issues
- Musculoskeletal pain and injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Chemical exposures
- Infectious diseases
- Noise and vibration exposure
- Urologic injuries
These issues require a medical team to address and are beyond the scope of a single primary care physician. Real support involves a collaboration of healthcare providers and active assistance from the community at large.
4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD (also known as "combat fatigue" or "shell shock") results from experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event directly or indirectly. Though PTSD is not limited to veterans only, military personnel experience it almost four-fold compared to civilians (8% vs. 36%).
PTSD is often associated with sleep problems, traumatic brain injury (TBI), substance abuse disorder (SUD), military sexual trauma, and other psychiatric disorders. Treatment aims at providing therapy (psychotherapy, family, group, and prolonged exposure), medication such as antidepressants, and social support.
5. Personal Finances
Veterans today are far more vulnerable to their financial problems compared to the rest of the U.S. population. It's one of the reasons why the U.S. Department of Defense proposed to have veterans protected from predatory lenders.
Service members are twice as likely to carry some form of credit card debt monthly (58%) than civilians (34%). They also make less than the minimum required payments annually. Veterans have a more pessimistic view about their financial future than civilians, and almost 55 percent believe that they are not prepared for a financial emergency.
The Bottom Line
Veterans and their loved ones must work together to help the former integrate seamlessly back into society for the overall benefit of everyone. Understanding and appreciating the challenges facing veterans today as they transition back to civilian life is essential.
There exist numerous veteran service organizations, including the Department of Veteran Affairs, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and American Legion. These organizations specialize in supporting veterans to transition from active duty back to civilian life. Some of the services they offer include life coaching, clinical treatment, veterans' benefits processing, and confidential one-on-one consulting.
If you have a veteran in your life with a specific need, engage the community at large by posting a campaign on dreamOway. The platform brings together aspiring dreamers and donors willing to provide financial support.
Scientist-turned-founder and CEO Justine Sinclair believes a supportive community composed of like-minded people can turn dreams into reality.
To date, dreamOway hosts hundreds of crowdfunding campaigns and gives a voice to aspiring dreamers - like you! Our success stories include veterans as well. Read their stories to find inspiration on you can positively impact a veteran in your life.
Using the platform's simple goal structure share your dream with the in-app community and across all your social media channels. Share your story by creating a video and posting it in the app.
Don't wait till tomorrow - live your dream today!