Veterans deserve more from us when their service ends


Courtesy of WikiCommons

American soldiers “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” by Joe Rosenthal, Feb. 23, 1945

Veteran’s Day should not be the only day that we give our attention and appreciation to our U.S. military. We are a nation at war, and this Veteran’s Day, and every day, our country’s military members risk their lives both here at home and around the globe to ensure the security and freedom of America and all that stand within. By joining the military, America’s men and women are practically signing on the dotted line that they are willing to give their lives so that we may live free. Veterans serving travel to far away places from their loved ones for long periods of time often in dangerous locations.

But despite this sacrifice, veterans come home with great challenges upon returning from war and long-term deployments. With this selfless career comes sacrifice. When transitioning from military service, men and women face issues such as mental illness due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, homelessness and unemployment. 

The greatest thing America can do for its military is to increase public awareness of these issues, and emphasize the importance of understanding and appreciating the sacrifice our all-volunteer service force makes every day. Americans, in return, should invest their money and time into building upon the work that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is doing to support our veterans. Raising donations and contributing to programs such as “The Soldiers Project” and the “Coming Home Project” will help to provide these services for those who need it. It is also crucial for the private sector to look to hire veterans upon their return stateside, either through incentive programs or out of gratitude and responsibility.

The data regarding some veterans’ mental health issues upon return home is unsettling. According to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, veterans are 1.5 times more likely to take their own life than non-veterans. The suicide rate for our veterans between the ages of 18 and 34 rose by almost 80% within the last couple decades. So far, $1 billion has been invested in suicide prevention, however, it is not enough. The well-being of our military should be worth much more to the U.S. 

There are resources that are essential to and appreciated by those who support veterans, however, they are poorly funded. In 2019, 87% of the VA’s total budget was designated for medical programs. Out of this 87%, only 4.3% was left for mental health services, funding over 18.9 million mental health outpatient visits. Visits have increased by 162,000 visits over the 2018 estimate and will continue to increase as we should encourage more veterans to get the help they need.

Unfortunately, service members face more challenges upon returning home that affect their quality of life. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 40,056 veterans are homeless every night. These veterans are suffering from poverty, lack of nutritional meals, lack of basic health care, mental health issues and dismal living conditions due to the lack of family and other support. No person who has worn the uniform and defended our home should be without a place to call home.

The VA does care for homeless veterans and provides specialized programs that supply health care and connect them with community resources securing rehabilitative, transitional and permanent beds for the homeless. These programs are very poorly funded. Again, increased government funding and an increase of public awareness and donations will help the VA continue and build upon the work they have done. 

Millions upon millions of American servicemen and women have given their lives in service throughout our history. Many more will go on to do so in the future. To honor their memory, we as a nation should be running at the opportunity to support those who have returned home. Not only on Veteran’s Day, but every day of the year.