MOSES: Veterans need better resources

Veterans+Day+is+Thursday%2C+November+11.+Photo+via+Flickr

Veterans Day is Thursday, November 11. Photo via Flickr

American freedom would not be possible without our soldiers, who beyond their titles are human beings. As a country at war — with others and with ourselves — our military members risk their lives to secure our rights. Unfortunately, after leaving the military, veterans are faced with a hard reality: our government does little to protect them outside of the U.S. Armed Forces.

It is critical our government and the Department of Veterans Affairs create more sustainable and accessible resources for veterans across the nation.

Celebrating and commemorating veterans for their duty rests on the shoulders of one day: Veterans Day. Each Veterans Day, there are special deals at retail stores, restaurants and at Jefferson College in Missouri, free oil changes. But after Veterans Day, there is little acknowledgment of veterans, as well as genuine care for their well-being.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, three primary mental health concerns that veterans may suffer from are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and traumatic brain injury. About one in five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD or depression. In consonance with NAMI, the VA research proved 30% of Vietnam veterans will experience PTSD in their lifetime. In a study released by the VA in 2013 that covered suicides from 1999 to 2021, about 22 veterans were dying by suicide each day, or one every 65 minutes.

Additionally, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported that in 2019, 21 out of every 10,000 veterans were homeless. Additionally, veterans of color are more likely to experience homelessness than their white counterparts.

While the Veterans Health Administration, the largest health care system in the United States, has a variety of health care resources, information and treatment options, the accessibility of these resources are not great.

According to the American Public Health Association, there are three major problems when trying to access health care as a veteran. Number one, the requirement that they have either an honorable or general discharge to receiving VA benefits. To be granted an honorable discharge, service members must receive a rating from good to excellent for their service. It isn’t difficult to receive, those who complete their duty and/or exceed expectations will receive honorable mention.

Number two: there is a long waitlist for care which is due to the lack of health care providers, poor scheduling practices and problems related to transitioning from active-duty military care systems to veterans’ care systems.

Number three: social barriers to care-seeking behavior related to military culture. Often times, those in and outside of the military may find difficulty in seeking treatment.

This exposes the major shortcomings of our health care system that we must address on national and local levels.

In Milwaukee, there are a number of resources available to veterans that have been created over time to address the needs of veterans.

For instance, Forbes Magazine just highlighted Milwaukee’s Old Main, which has recently been renovated to house veterans. Old Main was built in 1867 as a place of healing for veterans returning from the Civil War. Thanks to the rehab project, the historic building now consists of 101 housing units across six restored buildings for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This is huge seeing as in Milwaukee, one of every four homeless people is a veteran.

The restoration process started in 2011 and was completed earlier this year. Taking time to create quality resources to meet the needs of veterans is necessary to creating lasting institutions.

Also, Marquette’s Midnight Run chapter works closely with Vet’s Place, which houses veterans in the city. Midnight Run’s sole purpose is to serve the particular needs of the hungry and homeless people living in the Marquette neighborhood and beyond. Having veterans be a part of that conversation is major.

So as Veterans Day approaches, I urge everyone to see veterans beyond their titles, accolades and awards. Go one step further and view them as human beings who need proper resources to nurture a healthy life.

This story was written by Hope Moses. She can be reached hope.moses@marquette.edu