There are an estimated 23.4 million veterans in the United States and about 2.2 million active military service members. This is a large number of people who will depend on our military and veterans’ health care system. We have a volunteer military and we should all be concerned for the well-being of our military service members, both active duty and veterans. Veteran’s Day is only one time to express gratitude for the sacrifices that these men and women have made. Our veterans deserve to be provided the absolute best medical care available. Doing so shows our appreciation for their service.
Involvement in combat may exert an emotional toll on military personnel, their families, and their communities. This causes behavior that focuses on and reacts to losses and fears, causes injuries associated with combat; repeated deployments and/or relocations cause all sorts of psychological issues, including sexual violence. The demanding environments of military life and experiences of combat, during which many veterans experience psychological distress, can be further complicated by substance abuse and related disorders. Many service members face trauma, suicide, homelessness and involvement with the criminal justice system. Military veterans, personnel and their families have a unique culture and specific behavioral health needs that are not necessarily understood within the greater community. This means that all the issues listed above require specialized care and treatment that caters specifically to veterans’ needs.
Approximately 50% of returning service members who need treatment for mental health conditions seek it, but only slightly more than half who receive treatment receive adequate care. Although active duty troops and their families are eligible for care, a significant number choose not to access those services due to fear of discrimination or the harm receiving treatment for behavioral health issues may have on their military career or that of their spouse. Veterans often find it difficult to navigate the VA system and fall through the cracks without support. The good work of agencies like the VFW, American Legion, and Wounded Warrior Project to support veterans in getting the services they need should be applauded and supported.
Much more must be done to help our military service members and their families overcome the hardships that they confront due to their service to our country. They deserve the best America has to offer. Let’s remember to support them every day, not just thank them on Veteran’s Day.