Memorial Day is more than a holiday for cookouts and afternoon baseball games. It is a holiday to remember those who the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Unfortunately the troops who survive and come home don’t have their own holiday, so today lets thank them too, and look at some of the problems vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are facing.
Here are some statistics about the situation many of our troops face after they
Overall, there are 25 million veterans, of which more than 1.8 million of them have spent time in Iraq and/or Afghanistan since October 2001. Thirty seven million Americans are dependants, or survivors of US vets. (This is about 20% of the population).
One of the biggest issues facing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is mental health problems, 338,000 of these individuals have either PTSD or major depression, but only 53% have seen a doctor or mental health provider. One in five vets of Iraq and Afghanistan has suffered a brain injury, yet only 46% have been scanned for a concussion. Less than half of the vets who have suffered psychological or neurological injuries are receiving treatment. The result of these mental health issues is that every day five US soldiers attempt suicide.
Addiction and homelessness are also problems that returning vets face, as 7,400 vets have been treated at VA hospitals for drug addiction, and another 27,000 have been diagnosed with non-dependant use of drugs. The VA has also diagnosed 16,200 new vets as having a dependency on alcohol. 154,000 vets were homeless as of 2007, and one third of America’s homeless are veterans. 11% of the homeless vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are women.
Housing and unemployment are often overlooked problems. Sixty one percent of
employers say that they don’t have a complete understanding of the qualifications ex service members’ offer, and 75% of vets say that they are unable to translate their military skills to civilian life. My point in offering these statistics isn’t to be partisan, but to demonstrate that our social obligation to veterans doesn’t end when they come home. Whether you agree or disagree with the wars, this country has a major crisis on its hands when it comes to veterans care.
Today is a day to remember the fallen, but let’s not exclude those people who served their country well and were fortunate enough to come home. Just because there isn’t a national holiday which honors them, and no Veteran’s Day which is supposed to be a day honor returning veterans doesn’t count, because when do people actually honor vets, we get a bunch of feel good stories, not a discussion of the issues, until the next time they are called to server, or the next presidential election.
All statistics came from the Center for American Progress