By Shelley Hoss
Published in the Orange County Register on June 3, 2013
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We should help veterans with the battles they have to fight at home.
What is more moving than the scenes of servicemen and servicewomen returning from war?
A young wife launches into her husband’s arms. Children cling to a long-absent parent.
It’s uplifting and unambiguously joyous. And we all want to believe that, for the veteran, it’s the end of their sacrifice and the beginning of a happily ever after.
If only it were that simple.
Just as war is not a movie, returning from military service is only one moment in time. And, touching as they are, these moments do not reflect the challenges that came before, nor the challenges that will most certainly come after. Returning veterans are real people who have often seen horrific tragedy or suffered severe injury, and who now must quickly transition to a day-to-day civilian life of supporting themselves and their families.
In an upcoming Orange County Community Foundation Special Report, we will examine what veterans face when they return home, and we will share the work of some key organizations that are helping ease the transition from military to civilian life.
What we know:
- Post- 9/11 veterans between age 21 and 26 experience a disproportionately high rate of unemployment—as high as 21 percent.
- Since 2001, roughly 2 million veterans have completed tours of service, many following multiple deployments.
- There is a significant lag time, often more than a year, between returning home and receiving military benefits, such as healthcare and GI Bill education coverage.
- Many veterans face even greater challenges due to the physical and emotional effects of injury and/or psychological trauma.
- Living in an area with a high cost of living heightens these struggles, as achieving self-sufficiency becomes much more difficult.
In our special report, we will focus on the three most critical issues veterans face and organizations that are helping them overcome their greatest challenges in the areas of:
- Jobs, self-sufficiency and transitioning to civilian life.
- Health and wellness.
- Higher education and vocational training.
One of the primary issues impeding steady employment is a transition back to civilian life that addresses the personal and social challenges faced by veterans returning after deployment.
The standard transitioning provided by the military typically isn’t enough. Veterans struggle to find their footing in the civilian world, coping with problems such as finding a job and adapting to civilian life. Programs such as REBOOT Workshops, run by the National Veterans Transition Services, work by delving deeply into the complex needs of returning veterans.
“REBOOT has been carefully designed to address reintegration issues… by focusing on the service member’s positive attributes, and teaching attendees how to understand and control thoughts,” says Ronne Froman, a retired rear admiral and chief executive of National Veterans Transitions Services, Inc. “The workshop works through numerous scenarios…providing them with peer-to-peer advice and sound cognitive education.”
A common belief is that veterans receive full healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs, but this is not always the case.
According to a report last year from CNN, the VA said it is on track to process 1 million disability claims this year. The agency also is sorting through a backlog of more than 860,000 disability claims, including more than 228,000 that have been on a waiting list a year or longer.
Fortunately, counseling programs for active duty and veterans, such as the Mariposa Women and Family Center in Orange have had tremendous results working with family adjustment in particular.
The GI Bill, which helps to pay for a post-military education, is another benefit of volunteering for military service. However, the red tape that comes with securing those benefits can be overwhelming.
Orange County has multiple colleges and universities that have veterans outreach departments. And the Yellow Ribbon Program that helps military personnel-turned-students use their GI bill benefits and decide which education option (university? vocational training?) are best for them. And Yellow Ribbon resources can help navigate the rest of the enrollment and financial aid process.
Veterans have made huge sacrifices to help all of us. If, in return, they can get a little help from their communities and key organizations, they can realize the promise of a good job, health care and a chance to thrive wherever they happen to call home.
To learn more about veterans organizations in Southern California, visit ConnectOC.org or the Orange County Community Foundation’s veteran’s initiative.
Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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