By Amy Miller, AFC®
The depth of challenges faced by Veterans varies widely. With Veterans Day approaching, paying attention to the real issues Veterans face is critical. Below is a look at those issues and the resources available to those who have served our country.
As we all know, service can take a toll – mentally and physically. This is why health and healthcare-related issues are some of the most significant challenges Veterans face.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) oversees the healthcare of more than 9 million Veterans living in the U.S. – that is approximately half of all Veterans in the country. In addition to the need for the basic treatment of physical illnesses, Veterans experience much higher instances of mental health disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) than civilians. The VA reports treating around 1.1 million Veterans per year for these concerns.
Veterans often experience roadblocks that can prevent them from receiving the care they need. These roadblocks include long wait times, difficulties with transportation, lack of facilities near their homes, concerns of missing work, and the stigma around needing assistance.
The VA recognizes these challenges and has taken steps to address them. In the past decade, the VA has created new outreach programs, hired more healthcare professionals (including trained mental health professionals), and expanded telehealth options. The VA is also exploring expanding access to non-VA community care facilities in an effort to help Veterans overcome these barriers and ensure they are receiving quality care in a timely manner.
Many Veterans do not realize that they qualify for VA healthcare. You can find out if you are eligible for VA health care and find information on How To Apply For VA Health Care | Veterans Affairs here.
Housing & Homelessness
Although there has been a steady decline in the overall number of homeless Veterans in the U.S. since 2010, homelessness and housing insecurity continue to be at the forefront of issues facing Veteran households.
Annually the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducts a count to estimate the number of Veterans without stable housing. This year’s Point In Time Count was released last week and reports there are more than 33,000 veterans experiencing homelessness on any single night in 2022.
Studies show that Veterans are around 50% more likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts and makeup around 17% of our country’s total homeless population. Female Veterans are currently the fastest-growing demographic, according to HUD. Female Veterans are also two to three times more likely to be homeless than any other adult population.
An additional 1.5 million Veterans are considered to be housing insecure and risk becoming homeless. Contributing factors include living below the poverty level, paying more than 50% of household income for housing expenses, having a disability, or experiencing issues when receiving and accessing benefits. Lack of support and social isolation are also among the top risk factors.
As gloomy as these numbers seem, the good news is that they represent a 55% reduction in the number of homeless Veterans since 2010 and an 11% reduction since 2020 when the last full PIT count was conducted.
The VA is committed to ending homelessness. In 2022, the VA set a goal to permanently house 38,000 Veterans. Working with other agencies, housing providers, employers, and community organizations, they have worked to seek out Veterans in need and offer services and support. To date, they are on track to meet their goal, placing nearly 31,000 in permanent housing this year.
The VA offers 24-hour support, seven days a week via the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans. Veterans in need can contact a trained counselor by calling (877) 4AID-VET or (877) 424-3838.
Unemployment & Underemployment
Veteran unemployment and underemployment have seen dramatic fluctuations in the last several years. In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Veteran unemployment saw a dramatic spike and rose to 11.95%. Prior to the 2020 pandemic, Veteran unemployment had been at a 20-year low of 3.1%. As of October 2022, Veteran Unemployment went back down to 2.7%, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.
Some are skeptical of these numbers and question their accuracy and further state that the REAL problem isn’t unemployment but Veteran underemployment.
Underemployment is when someone is working beneath their skill set, education, or experience and most often, at a lower wage. According to a study conducted by Penn State University earlier this year, as many as 61% of Veterans in the workforce are struggling with underemployment.
Veterans bring significant skills, training, and leadership to employers. However, translating military background into related civilian workforce experience proves to be a hurdle for many Veterans. This hurdle can prevent Veterans from securing a job that utilizes their full skill set. The lack of translation can significantly limit Veteran opportunities. A few other contributing factors are the lack of connections in the civilian workforce and not having a clear vision of a career after the military.
In 1991, TAP (Transition Assistance Program) mandated the completion of pre-separation counseling. The program was improved in 2019 to specifically combat the previously mentioned issues and is now provided by Readiness Centers located on military installations and must be completed by all service members within at least 365 days of transition. Retirees are encouraged to start the process around 2 years prior to their separation date. The program includes individualized counseling, information on entitlements, translating skills, a VA Benefits briefing, and an employment workshop led by the Department of Labor. You can learn more about the program here: TAP
The VA’s Veteran Readiness and Employment – Veterans Opportunity to Work (va.gov) help connect Veterans with employment-related services like job training, resume development, and interview coaching. They also have a site dedicated to employers that would like to learn more about employing veterans – VA’s Employer Website.
Additionally, there are many resources offered by non-profit organizations for the nearly 250,000 service members who transition out of the military each year. A quick search of non-profit researcher, Guidestar, resulted in over 23,000 organizations that have some sort of veteran employment program in place.
Military.com has an extensive list of some of the top organizations for Veteran employment assistance.
AMBA recognizes the sacrifices made by our service members. If you are a Veteran and are experiencing challenges, we encourage you to reach out and seek assistance.
You can find phone numbers and contact information for the different services offered by the VA here:
The Veteran’s Crisis Line offers 24 Hour Support. You can dial 988 (then press 1) or text 838255. They also have a live chat available on their website.