As tens of thousands of our troops continue to return home from combat, they find themselves coming home to a nation in a dismal economic situation. They come home to a nation where the overall national unemployment rate is 8.2% and where the unemployment rate for veterans who have served our country since September 2001 is 9.5%.
Worse, the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18 to 24 was a dreadful 23% in June, according to the Wall Street Journal.
And then we have these:
* Although the number of homeless veterans has fallen in the last few years, still, on any given night right now, roughly 68,000 veterans are homeless in the United States and within that number, a group of at least 14,000 have been homeless for a year, according to the New York Times.
* PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or a combination of the two due to combat trauma are taking an increasing toll on our vets who have already returned from Iraq and those returning from and still in Afghanistan. Statistics vary, some claiming that anywhere from 12 to 20 percent of returning vets to as many as one of every three Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD, TBI or both.
* While the dramatic increase in suicides among active-duty military — averaging nearly one per day from the first of the year — has been much in the news recently, the VA reports that an average of 18 veterans a day have killed themselves. The New York Times reported in April that for every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans died by their own hands.
* Add to this the many other problems those who have served face, including disabilities and other physical and mental health issues, family problems, alcohol and drugs and just the fact of having to “transition” to “normal” family life and society after prolonged absences and multiple deployments, and one gets a glimpse into the challenges our returning service men and women encounter when they “come home.”
* To top it all off, there is a significant backlog of claims at the Veterans Administration. Although improving, the VA application process remains complicated and cumbersome. Many Veterans who are disabled and unable to work due to war trauma have waited for months and years for benefits they were promised and have earned. This has resulted in many veterans with significant financial problems that can contribute to their homelessness.
Perhaps some help is under way to assist our separating service members successfully “transition” into the civilian work force, start a business, or pursue higher education.
Today President Obama announced the launch of the redesigned Transition Assistance Program developed by an interagency team from the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Education, and Homeland Security as well as the Office of Personnel and Management and the Small Business Administration.
According to the Department of Defense:
The revamped program, called Transition GPS, is the first major overhaul of the transition assistance program for military members in nearly 20 years. The effort began in response to a call from President Obama in August 2011 to ensure all service members are “career ready” when they leave the military.
“I applaud the leadership of President Obama to bring together government agencies around the goal of enhancing career opportunities for service members,” said Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta. “Our personnel have developed extraordinary technical expertise and world-class leadership skills that are in high demand. Transition GPS will help military members apply their experience to additional training, formal education, and develop successful civilian careers.”
“One of our fundamental responsibilities as a government is to properly prepare and support those serving in our military so they are career ready as they transition back into civilian life. With this new initiative, we can better ensure veterans receive the care, benefits and employment services they have earned,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This collaborative effort will have an impact well beyond this current generation of individuals returning from combat.”
Announcing the program at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada, the President told a large crowd of veterans, “If you want somebody who gets the job done, then hire a vet. Hire a vet, and they will make you proud — just like they’ve made America proud.”
Knowing America’s patriotism, I know that businesses, large and small, will open their hearts and their doors to these brave men and women who have already given so much and make this initiative work.
For more information on this program, please click here.