Missing Limbs, More Suicides, No Jobs
1,000 veterans attempt suicide every month. That means every 80 minutes a veteran attempts suicide, every day 18 veterans succeed.
Now more than ever, the military is talking about suicides. In 2010, an Army task force released a massive report, including 250 recommendation, on reducing suicides among soldiers and veterans. “The hard part is eliminating the long-standing stigma, breaking down the invisible barrier,” Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli said. “I do not believe we are losing this battle.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly five percent being female. The majority of them are single; come from urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans.
Roughly 56 percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population respectively.
About 1.5 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
The rate of employment in veterans is 12.1 percent, vs. 9 percent for the U.S. overall.
Dig deeper into the pages of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data and you;ll find some disturbing statistics.
Younger vets are coming right out of high school; the job market punishes those with less education.
The youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier.
For black veterans aged 18-24, the unemployment rate is a striking 48 percent!
As veterans, women now face unprecedented challenges. One 2010 study estimated that 15 percent experienced sexual trauma overseas, while a recent Pentagon report found that female vets were twice as likely as men to develop combat-related PTSD, but less likely to seek treatment. Not to mention that for women, a return from war often means reconciling life as a former soldier with life as a mother.
Women are 3 times more likely to be raped by while serving than being killed in combat.
Some women in the military stop drinking water at 7pm to reduce the odds of being raped in a bathroom at night.
Does anyone remember the soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette? She didn’t report the assault because she was afraid of being demoted for having gone out without her weapon.
Close to one-third of women veterans say they were victims of assault or raped while they were serving. Twice the rate in the civilian population.
The Pentagon estimates that 80% to 90% of sexual assaults go unreported.
Only 8% of cases that are investigated end in prosecution, compared with 40% for civilians arrested sex crimes. Astonishingly, about 80% of those CONVICTED are honorably discharged.
Greg Jeloudov was 35 and new to America when he decided to join the Army.
Jeloudov arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training in May 2009.
The soldiers in his unit called him a “champagne socialist” and a “commie faggot.”
Less than two weeks after arriving on base, he was gang-raped in the barracks by men who said they were showing him who was in charge of the United States.
When he reported the attack to unit commanders, he says they told him, “It must have been your fault. You must have provoked them.”
Last year nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for “military sexual trauma” at the Department of Veterans Affairs, up from just over 30,000 in 2003.
Male-on-Male sexual assault is common in the military and hidden by personal shame and official denial.
Recent research suggests that military kids are more likely to suffer learning disabilities, behavioral disorders and violent tendencies. Military spouses are vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse, as are veterans themselves.
And as a couple, they’re twice as likely as civilians to divorce and four times more likely to contend with domestic violence.
A combination of chronic pain and mental health symptoms mean thousands of soldiers have been prescribed narcotic pain-killers, psychotropics, sleeping pills and other addictive, often dangerous drugs.
14 percent of Army soldiers have been proffered an opiate pain-killer.
73 percent of the Army’s accidental deaths in 2010 were blamed on prescription medication overdoses.
For many of those coming home with a bottle of pills, the habit can be tough to shake.
At least 25 percent of injured soldiers in one warrior transition unit were hooked on prescription meds, according to an Army inspector general report, and 31 percent of those at Walter Reed were using both prescription and street drugs.
Illness From Chemicals:
Today’s veterans might also be up against their very own Agent Orange. Open-air burn pits, used to incinerate household trash, computer parts and human waste at most bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, are now being linked to a host of serious health ailments.
But we might never know what — whether burn pits, toxic dust storms or chemical agent exposure — caused the conditions, which so far include neurological disorders, cancers and chronic respiratory infections.
A recent Institute of Medicine report noted that it was impossible to determine the source of airborne toxins overseas, because of “a lack of data” collected by the Department of Defense.
Arguably the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, post-traumatic stress disorder affects at least 20 percent of all soldiers deployed since 2001. And symptoms like insomnia, rage and depression are, despite a swath of prescription meds doled out by VA doctors, largely untreatable.
At least, for now. The Pentagon has invested millions into all kinds of research that aims to find a better remedy for PTSD. So far, the military has studied dozens of treatments, including fear-erasing drugs, yoga, virtual-reality therapy and meditation. Sadly, they still aren’t open to everything: Marijuana, one substance that’s got a lengthy track record helping vets calm down, has yet to get the green light.