This Veterans Day, we at the Center for American Progress honor the brave men and women who serve or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces—especially those who have given their lives or suffered physical or mental wounds. We also pay tribute to the families who have endured the absence of a loved one and dealt with the wounds of war in order to make this service possible.
As we remember the sacrifices made by all veterans since our nation’s founding, we thank those still serving on our behalf and keep them in our thoughts and prayers. The Iraq war is over, and the United States is on track to end its combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Yet as our men and women come home from war, we must meet our obligation to provide them with the best possible care and support.
This column outlines the challenges facing our service members and veterans, from combat stress injuries to unemployment. President Barack Obama and Congress must work together to take care of our men and women in uniform, especially as they navigate the difficult transition from military service to the civilian sector.
Who are our veterans?
- Approximately 22 million veterans are currently living in the United States.
- More than 2.6 million U.S. troops are veterans of Afghanistan or Iraq.
- According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 6.5 percent of veterans were unemployed in September 2013, compared to the national average of 7.2 percent.
- However, the unemployment rate for Gulf War II-era veterans—those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan—was 10.1 percent in September 2013.
- More than 75 percent of veterans report “an inability to effectively translate their military skills to civilian terms.”
- 61 percent of employers in a 2007 survey said they didn’t have “a complete understanding of the qualifications ex-service members offer.”
- College-educated service members who recently returned to civilian life earn almost $10,000 less per year on average than other college-educated adults.
Mental health problems
- There were 349 active-duty suicides in 2012, breaking a record set in 2009.
- Veterans account for 20 percent of national suicides.
- An estimated 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Nearly 35 percent of deployed service members experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to Stanford University estimates.
- 10 percent to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America estimates.
- According to RAND, only about half of troops that screened positive for PTSD or major depression had sought treatment.
- 62,619 veterans were homeless on a single night in the United States in 2012—13 percent of all homeless adults—according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2012 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.
- Veteran homelessness has declined by nearly 17 percent since 2009. The Obama administration has set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.
- Young veterans are more than twice as likely to become homeless as nonveteran adults of a similar age.
- 27 percent of Army soldiers met the criteria for alcohol abuse in three or four months after returning from Iraq, according to a 2011 study by the National Institute for Drug Abuse.
- A 2009 Pentagon health survey found that one in four soldiers had abused prescription drugs.
- Combat veterans are 31 percent more likely to begin binge drinking than service members who do not experience combat.
- Surveys by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that “from 2004 to 2006, 7.1 percent of veterans (an estimated 1.8 million persons) met criteria for a past-year substance use disorder.”
How you can help
Below is a list of several organizations dedicated to helping the men and women of our armed forces and their families: