After their time of service ends, many veterans have a difficult time re-adjusting to the lives they led before going into the military. And a shocking number of these veterans are falling through the cracks as a result.
A recently released study conducted by the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California reveals just how dire the circumstances are for returning members of the military.
The study found that among veterans returning to their homes in Los Angeles County, almost two-thirds reported being “unprepared for civilian life.” Eight out of 10 returning veterans don’t have a job when they come home. Nearly 40% of the veterans surveyed didn’t have a place to live.
Perhaps most jarring: about one-third of veterans consider suicide at some point after returning home from duty.
What could be the cause of such widespread dissonance among returning veterans?
According to retired Army colonel and USC professor Carl Castro, one of the study’s authors, the answer may lie in the significant proportion of veterans who return home with mental and physical disabilities, most of which are left untreated.
Approximately 45% of all veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seek compensation from the VA for their service-related injuries and disabilities, but not all are able to successfully file a claim. Left behind, these veterans with disabilities have an even tougher time re-adjusting to their normal lives. Castro told RTV 6 ABC that the military’s Transition Assistance Program should be expanded to provide more guidance to veterans with disabilities as they work toward rebuilding the lives they led before going to war.
“(We need to) tell them, don’t minimize an injury or an illness you have,” Castro said. “Because here, the implications for minimizing an illness or an injury…become catastrophic…. If we did the same thing for heart disease and said, well, we know you’re having serious heart problems and it looks like you’re beginning to get congestive heart failure, but call us back when you have a heart attack and then we’ll help you. That’s the way our system is.”
Ultimately, helping veterans rebuild their lives means instating more effective services and a more holistic approach to addressing veterans’ needs that must come from higher up. The millions of veterans living across America deserve better than to be left behind by the country they risked their lives to defend.