A new study has found that more than 40 percent of U.S. soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who sought treatment from a Veterans Administration hospital suffer from a mental disorder or a related behavioral problem. Thirty-seven per cent of the soldiers who sought treatment were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, alcohol abuse or other mental health issues.
Prison Coach Speaking & Consulting understands that as a result of serving in prolonged wars, many veterans return home, only to suffer in silence with some type of mental disorder. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness, many veterans are hesitant to admit they have a mental health problem. Only just recently, have the military and the federal government begun to take veterans’ mental health issues seriously. Now, many are beginning to obtain the professional help they need.
The challenges of veteran unemployment are not confined to the Vietnam-era veteran population. With one million veterans projected to leave the armed forces between 2012 and 2017, the United States stands at a critical moment. Will we allow another generation of veterans to return from war only to fight an unfair uphill battle in the search for dignified work? Or will this generation of civilians step up to embrace, support and fully utilize the skills and value of returning warriors?
There are three distinct factors that most heavily affect unemployment among veterans. These causes include:
- The challenge of translating military work experience into civilian terms
- Certification hurdles including licensing requirements
- Disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder
While service members often serve in roles that closely mirror civilian jobs, this compatibility is often lost in translation on many veteran resumes.
While working as a family services counselor at The Fortune Society, I had plenty of veterans who served many years in various capacities for the Army, Navy and Marines. I noticed that many military jobs are almost identical to civilian counterparts. The struggle occurs when a veteran seeks the civilian equivalent of his or her previous military occupation, but encounters intimidating, confusing, time-consuming and/or expensive requirements such as certification or coursework.
In addition to these requirements, the manner in which veterans pay for the certifications can also frustrate veterans enough to forgo using their well honed military skills. Many were using federal benefits to pay for civilian schooling in skills they’ve already mastered. It seemed like government was literally wasting millions of tax dollars requiring a veteran to attend training they have already completed, which could be spent on more advanced qualification.
My years in prison in addition to my employment at The Fortune Society helped me focus on the need to bridge the gap and better assist veterans who are felons desperately seeking to find employment through group therapy, life coaching and safety awareness training.