Honoring Our Veterans

A look at some of the challenges facing our service members and veterans.

Some Of The Challenges Our Veterans Face, By The Numbers

On Veterans Day, we honor the brave men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces. Many have suffered wounds – both mental and physical – and it’s imperative we thank them for their past and ongoing service. We also pay tribute to the families who have endured the absence of a loved one and dealt with the wounds of war.

Today, there are approximately 22 million veterans currently living in the United States, with about 2.6 million veterans from the post-9/11 era. Below, we outline just some of the challenges facing our service members and veterans, from unemployment to PTSD to homelessness – and urge the president and Congress to work together to take care of our men and women in uniform.

  • Unemployment: According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 4.5 percent of veterans were unemployed as of October 2014, compared to the national unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. Those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, higher than the unemployment rates for veterans of any other era.
  • Mental Health And Suicide: About 14 percent of service members previously deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan reported symptoms indicative of probable post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. An estimated 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010, although this number may be underreported. While that rate is declining due to Veteran’s Affairs improved mental health treatment, much remains to be done.
  • Homelessness: The Obama administration set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015, and the rate has declined by 35 percent between 2010 and 2014. But as of January of this year, there are still about 49,933 homeless veterans, with young veterans more than twice as likely to become homeless as nonveteran adults of a similar age.
  • Addiction: In 2010, about 788,000 veterans were diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder at a VA medical center. Alcohol abuse accounted for about half of the diagnoses, and 23 percent of veterans with a substance abuse diagnosis were also diagnosed with PTSD.
  • Sexual Trauma: Both male and female service members have experienced military sexual trauma. According to the most recent U.S. Department of Defense survey, 4,113 service members reported experiencing sexual assault during their service in fiscal year 2013. Sexual assault is extremely underreported in the military: The actual number of service members who experience sexual assault was estimated at 26,000 in FY 2012.
  • Access To Care: Overall, the VA health system consistently delivers high-quality care, outperforming the private sector on metrics such as management of chronic conditions, cancer screening, and hospital care quality indicators. Mental health care is as good as, or better than, mental health care in the private sector. But accessing the VA health system still remains a significant problem.

How you can help: Below are organizations that are dedicated to helping the men and women of our armed forces and their families:

BOTTOM LINE: On this Veterans Day, and every day, honor those who have served our country, and thank them for the sacrifices they have made. For a more extended look at the difficulties facing our veterans, read the by-the-numbers column at the Center for American Progress from which this is based.

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