Post-9/11 Veterans Face Challenges Upon Return

A recent article in the Army Times discussed the difficulties that service members often have when returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.  After they are joyfully reunited with family and friends and celebrated as heroes, our veterans must work to adapt to civilian life.  Many face a range of physical, mental, and financial struggles. This is particularly true for soldiers who are returning from multiple deployments and those who have experienced traumatic events while serving.

The Wounded Warrior Project Study

Fortunately, organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project are putting forth diligent effort to learn more about injured veterans’ experiences in order to aid in the development and refinement of support services for veterans.  On September 10th, after conducting an annual comprehensive survey of nearly 14,000 veteran members (in collaboration with the Rad Corp. and Westat), the Wounded Warrior Project released statistics about returning U.S. service members and their challenges.

What Struggles Do Veterans Face

Staff writer Patricia Kime of the Army Times reports  that “[m]ore than three out of four injured post-9/11 veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder and roughly the same number suffer from major anxiety….” Unfortunately, troops experiencing mental health struggles also report that they have ongoing issues in obtaining mental health care upon return to the U.S.  Kime went on to state that “m]ore than half (55 percent) said they had sought treatment; a third (34 percent) said they had trouble getting care or put off care; and a third (33 percent) said they were not comfortable getting treatment at Defense Department or Veterans Affairs Department facilities.”

Physical challenges are an expected area of difficulty for injured veterans. “According to the report, 83 percent said they are overweight or obese — the result largely of the physical limitations of their injuries — and 80 percent said they had trouble sleeping,” according to the Army Times. Substance abuse is a less talked about struggle for returning vets, though a quarter of respondents reported that “they either do not drink alcohol or have not consumed alcohol more than four times a month in the past year.”

Finances are also a big concern for many veterans. The rate of unemployment for returning soldiers is 17.8 percent, extremely high compared to the national rate. The Army Times article notes that, “It’s one of our highest priorities to make sure they are employed,” according to Jen Silva, executive vice president of economic empowerment for the Wounded Warrior Project.  Kime reports that “39 percent said they are worse off now financially than last year — and 17.8 percent are unemployed.”

The good news is that a majority of respondents report that they perceive themselves as having good support systems, feeling well cared for and resilient in the face of these mental, physical, and financial difficulties. “Eighty-six percent said they had family or friends they could depend on and 55 percent said they believe they can handle change or challenges,” according to the Wounded Warrior Project’s findings.  Organizations and projects dedicated to working toward a better understanding of the struggles and needs of our returning service members are also a crucial support for veterans and their families and friends.  The Wounded Warrior Project is one of many groups to be grateful for as we continue to learn more about the effects of war on the men and women who serve.