More needs to be done to help veterans assimilate into civilian world

Posted on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 10:57 am

Veterans returning home face all sorts of challenges and adjustments. There has been an alarming suicide rate among them; there have been massive backlogs in dispensing disability benefits; and there have been persistent gaps in linking veterans to new opportunities in the workforce, something that obviously hasn’t been helped by a slow economy.

A far more aggressive and comprehensive strategy is needed, as more veterans return from Afghanistan over the course of the year, joining those who already have finished their tours in Iraq.

For instance, a recent USA Today article cites Department of Veterans Affairs data that show 1,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder every week.

While the Veterans Affairs’ budget has increased during the Obama administration, the agency has struggled mightily to become more efficient and automated to handle all the claims. The agency says it is committed to ending the backlog, in part, by replacing mounds of paperwork with an electronic system. It’s an absolute affront that such a conversion didn’t take place long ago

Clearly, the need to diagnose and treat post-traumatic stress disorder early and aggressively is paramount. Efforts to acclimate veterans back into a society also are imperative. Finding a job and/or getting a better education are major keys seeing veterans make the transition.

USA Today recently reported that a little more than half of veterans who enroll in college do graduate. While this graduation rate is better than that of other non-traditional students, it is still not nearly high enough.

There are signs of hope, however.

The federal government is creating an integrated website that will streamline employment resources for people leaving the military. The website, ebenefits.com, is pulling together job-shopping tools, including giving veterans and their spouses information on how to be build an effective resume and transfer military skills into private-sector attributes.

Gains both big and small have to made. That starts with people recognizing the problem and not merely wishing to put the wars behind them as if there are no lasting effects or damages that have to be confronted.

-The Poughkeepsie (New York) Journal

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