Wounded warriors are not receiving the help that they need to assimilate into civilization and the workforce. In extreme cases, veterans are even struggling to maintain mental health.
Roughly 20 U.S. military veterans commit suicide daily.
The figure is astounding, especially since the military rate of suicide is significantly higher (22%) than that of civilians. It’s incredibly respectable of President Trump to address the issue, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
President Trump closed a gap in coverage that made it difficult for veterans who were recently discharged from service to receive mental health care. A major issue still remains: figuring out a way to support and more effectively assimilate veterans who have physical and mental impairments into society and the workforce.
Countless veterans have been neglected and have had no other options but to depend on the disability system. Roughly 36% of veterans receive payments for disability since the World Trade Center attacks on September 11. This is in addition to the 14% of veterans who served in WW2 that receive disability, along with 21% of soldiers who served in Vietnam.
Veterans who receive disability compensation are less likely to be working, and employment is fundamental to preserve mental health. The national average of male veterans (over age 25) who actively participate in the workforce is lower than civilians. From ages 25 to 34, the gap is almost 5% of a difference.
A great deal of the disability is associated with a major increase in PTSD, which impacts 11-12% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Disability recipients are most commonly diagnosed with PTSD, followed by hearing loss and tinnitus. This year, the cost for the VA is expected to be as high as $84 billion, which is over half of the budgeted $186 billion and more than the cost of providing medical service.
By all means, many veterans are seriously disabled and are in need of continuous disability compensation throughout their life. The law requires that disabled vets be entitled to compensation due to their time in service, provided that they haven’t been dishonorably discharged by the military.
However, other veterans who are not seriously disabled could be given more opportunities that help them become acclimated again with the workforce.
This would require that the VA’s medical treatment services and the disability payment system be handled concurrently, instead of the current separate structures. In the current state, there is an incentive for veterans to apply for disability that encourages them to remain at a low income. A veteran who has experienced a decline in health means that they are compensated more, while those whose health improves qualify for less.
Fortunately, services exist for veterans that can help address the mental health issues of those who bravely served our country. Veterans should have access to services that help them identify when they are in crisis and should have a deep understanding of how to either access help or support themselves and others around them who might be suffering from PTSD. If more of these services can be worked into the VA system as a mandatory step for receiving disability compensation, then there could be a greater chance of suicide rates declining.