An estimated 20 veterans die by suicide each day, according to Janet Kemp and Robert M. Bossarte, two mental health researchers. The suicide rate among veterans is more than double that of the general population. Veterans face pervasive economic, social and physical hardships and have a greater likelihood than those in the general population to end up homeless. Some estimates suggest that approximately 12 percent of veterans end up without housing at some point after returning from combat. Common challenges for veterans include a lack of understanding in what they have experienced, difficulties reconnecting with family and friends, struggling to find a supportive community, and difficulties applying and interviewing for civilian jobs.
After a tumultuous political season filled with vitriol and negative energy, it was nice to see many Americans take a moment on social media and on the streets to show their appreciation for veterans who have served this country in the Armed Forces. Since Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to all American veterans; November 11 has been our chance to honor American veterans. This is a group that, after two recent wars and seemingly underlying flash conflicts, is at great risk when they return to civilian life in a country that has often changed under their feet as much as they have changed by being in the service.
Without a heightened focus on veterans on the other days of the year, we will continue to see those who have served in the Navy, the Army, the Marine Corps and the Air Force struggle with suicide, homelessness and transition at remarkably high rates.
Colleges and Universities have made strong efforts to better assist veterans with transitioning into the workforce and academic life in recent years. The Department of Defense has expanded the DOD Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to help veterans and their spouses find the tools and training that will help them transition into civilian life.Non-profits, like MVLE Inc. in Northern Virginia, have specific programs designed to help individuals find jobs in government. Therapists in groups like Give an Hour are offering pro bono therapy and other healing arts services to members.
We are one year into the effort and I am happy to say that we have been able to make an impact in the lives of individuals who have reached out to us. We look forward to continuing this program for a long time and helping as many veterans as we can as we do our part to make sure that we pay attention to veterans on the other 364 days of the year.