A relative who served in the Vietnam War informed me, “when his brothers got out of the service, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress) wasn’t even recognized at that time.
And my brother had issues, and they locked him up in the institution,” (Hooyman). In Vietnam, PTSD, a disease of the brain which can cause nightmares, trauma, and suicidal thoughts, wasn’t even thought of as a true issue. The mental scarring that many faced against their will by being drafted, was ignored and shamed when returning home. Another relative on a different side of the family told me, “brother had had trouble over time, not any serious trouble, he just isn’t quite the same as when he left.
… Some of these guys come back in pretty bad shape,” (Swanson). Many returning soldiers come back from death and blood to return with financial strain, physical disabilities, and commonly, PTSD. Many of these stresses are not cared for properly, or even worse, left untreated. Many veterans return home, not in glory for fighting for our country, but with financial, mental, and physical stress.
Veterans take up a whole 41% of the homeless population due to the inability of veterans to be able to make ends meet and grow financially. Substance abuse involving drugs has been shown to increase also. A survey performed at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill surveyed 3,000 veterans from all branches of the military who served after September 11, 2001, in which 20% of the 3,000 members surveyed were found to be positive for PTSD. More studies of the same group of veterans also found that their physical disabilities caused adjustment problems when returning home from war, which does go back to the financial issues for paying for physical therapy (Elbogen, Beckham, et.
al). With these problems building up for returning soldiers, in addition there is not a ton of help being given. Many veterans are not getting the correct help that is promised financially, educationally, and medically when signing up to fight. With one half of 2.2 million soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan stating they struggled returning home, many were not given sufficient care transitioning back to society from the US Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs (VA), an organization that provides healthcare to eligible military members. The number of people in need and the number of people cared for do not match. Treatment-wise, according to the Institute of Medicine, the ways in which returning veterans with mental disabilities are being treated had “no clear scientific base” (McVeigh).
Many would argue that it isn’t completely up to the government to take control of the entire problematic situation of returning veterans, and they’re right. But veterans are often not willing to seek assistance due to the military and society, specifically dealing with PTSD treatment. Stigma. Stigma is the main barrier revolving around veterans not seeking assistance, according to many wives of returning veterans interviewed in The Washington Times. Many veterans have the fear of being marked as a dishonor to themselves, loved ones, and the country if they admit to needing aid post-service time. The wives found personality shifts when their husbands returned, with specific wives stating that their husbands had fears such as being “excused” from the military if finding aid, had too much pride to seek aid for a job they signed up for, they might be viewed differently from their peers, or just that the aid is plainly too far away to receive it (Wong). According to a study done by Blue Star Families, a nonprofit organization dedicated to military families, found that of the veterans showing major signs of PTSD, “only 35 percent of service members displaying symptoms of PTSD sought military medical treatment,” most of the others ignored their symptoms.
They also found that the stigma for not seeking assistance was found within the military and their service time (Wong). The barriers not only affect the deployed, it also affects families and communities. Having a family makes adjusting back to society even harder. According to Pew Research Center which studies information from social issues, a survey of 1,853 veterans found that “63% found re-entry to society easy,” but those that were married before service found only 48% affirmed it was easy to re-enter, the majority of this percent have family issues as well after deployment. Nearly half of the surveyed stated that the deployment affected their marriage negatively (Morin). The impact of spouses going into combat, especially ones with children, do not have a positive impact on the entire family. Whether the child was born after or before deployment, the shift in personality causes a distress amongst the married couple and onto their children.
Despite all this major issues, there are a lot of people and organizations trying to increase support. In 2009, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs executed the 9/11 GI Bill which had 1 million veterans returning and getting more school education. The 9/11 GI Bill gave more benefits to service members active after September 11, 2001, especially in the education after service aspect. The VA also cut the cut costs to 3% from 8% previously and increased the “availability of healthcare to 800,000 new members.” Even though the government has lately taken a tremendous step in helping soldiers more thoroughly, 56% of veterans rated the help rather poor with many believing a bigger problem is the skills learned in combat, is not transitioning to a typical career or job in civilian life (Flournoy). Regardless of the poll declaring 56% of veterans rating the care weak, some Americans feel as if the helping hand given has been more than enough, or maybe even too much, according to some.
Some American citizens believe that the government should focus more of their funding on other, more important issues, than fixing soldier’s transitioning back to everyday life. It’s not that these people don’t care, it’s that they believe the VA is in need of monitoring more securely before more financing should go to the government for veterans, especially when it is taxpayers money. According to many, the Department of Veterans Affairs are over-funding veterans schooling by millions, especially when many veterans take advantage of it and drop out of a class or the entire school (Rein). This causes the taxpayers money to go towards nothing crucial. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is in charge of evaluation and investigation, found that more than 7,000 drop-out veterans or untruthful veterans still receiving house benefits when they shouldn’t, “costing the VA over $5,000, with $110 million over payments from previous years still not collected yet.
” (Rein) Veterans returning to school are not required to verify each and every month which causes more money to be lost. Everything about these dishonest veterans is true, but despite all the untruthful, I and many other American citizens still believe there is more that we can do to help, including the VA and their support. Many have complained about the VA with good news and bad news, and many of these complaints have to do with the funding, but the more funding given to the VA, the more they are able to assist.
A survey of 3,135 veterans reported being on waiting lists for “months for primary-care,” some even years. Once you are in the waiting room, it took the surveyed veterans an average of a one and a half hour wait until a doctor could see them (Stoffer). Many veterans also state that distance has a huge role with getting aid. Because of the insufficient financing and having too few facilities, too many veterans go to a facility from miles away causing it to be overpacked with people seeking help. Even though the VA is there to help all returning soldiers, it is not being treated for all returning soldiers mainly due to funding.
Supporting veterans however, is not entirely up to the government. There are 23 million American veterans today and many of them are in need of assistance (Anderson and Gulledge). Because of the difficulty of employment for many veterans returning without a college degree, it’s important to hire veterans to decrease homelessness for many soldiers. Another way to assist is to recognize symptoms of PTSD, other mental diseases, or changes in personality and find a doctor. Many veterans are unwilling to receive help on their own so it is up to family members and the community to identify these shifts in character and get care.
Part of this is sharing loved ones stories to lessen the number of veterans dealing with their mental illnesses alone, and to decrease the suicide rate. Veterans come home from bravery of fighting for our lives, to financial, mental, and physical strains, possibly for the rest of their life. Recent studies suggest that the trauma created from fighting and participating in the military may cause lifelong damage to the hippocampus, a very important part of the brain that is in charge of spatial navigation and most importantly, memory (Butler). If we and our government don’t do more to lend a hand to the ones who battle for our freedom. We need to aid them in readjusting, and give them a huge thanks.