As veterans, we remember being taught many things in Basic Training. Regardless of the branch we served, we were all taught common values such as respect, honor, integrity, loyalty and courage to the young men and women of our armed forces. What happens to these service members after they are discharged? Veterans are faced with many issues after they return to the civilian world, partly due to the inability to adapt but mostly due to psychological diagnoses as a result of their military experiences. The core values may be engraved in these brave heroes for the rest of their lives but unfortunately they aren’t enough to help them cope with life after the military.
Though my mass research I have done on Veterans I found a common trait. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in every case it has been one of the major cause of suicide, incarceration, homelessness, drug and alcohol use and violent behavior. In the next few pages I will go over my research and at the end give my opinion on how we can help our active duty and our veterans so they do not become a statistic.
I am a big believer if we don’t learn from our past we are doomed to repeat it. Saying this brings me up my next point. Approximately 10 years of the conclusion of the Vietnam War veterans account for 24.9% of inmates in Federal Prison, 20.2% in State Prison 21.2 % in local Jails. Veteran’s historically makes about 8% to 10% of the adult population which makes veterans 2-3 times more likely to serve time in our prison system. In 2004 our veterans population account for about 9% of the inmate population which is inline of the total population of veterans in the US. If you look a little farther into the details you will notice that 65% of veteran inmate population was least 55 or older. This would have them serving in around the Vietnam era. In this same report veterans had shorter criminal recorded but reported longer prison sentences than non-veterans with similar criminal history. In State prison the average maximum sentence for non-veteran was an average of 119 months while veterans spent 147 months this is astounding 28 months longer. On average on veteran will expect to spend 22 months longer than a non-veteran for similar crimes than a non-veteran. (112 months compare to 90 months) In 1997, 1 out of every 10 veteran in the prison system Served during Persian Gulf.
Veterans were more likely to report mental health issues in prison, to commit a violent crime, and 1 out of 4 veterans in State prison were sex offenders compare to 1 out of 10 for non-veterans. You need to ask yourself why!
Suicide among our veterans and active duty members are at an all time high. There are approximately 30,000 US Citizen that commit suicide every year, 21% of this population are veterans. In 2007 a report by CBS that 6,256 veterans committed suicide but this report only included 45 states. There were 5 states that did not track veterans in there suicide static these states are as followed Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada and North Carolina. Since this report came out the numbers have gone up. This on average makes our veterans 2 times more likely to commit suicide than a non veteran. The age group that is most affected are 18 to 24 years of age or veterans that fought the war on terror are up to 4 times more likely to commit suicide. In my research I did find out that this was not an isolated incident after Vietnam War suicide rates went among our veterans. The pervious wars there are no statistics available. We need to ask our self, how come our veterans committing suicide at the rate!
Homelessness among our veterans is a topic that has been ignored, when we walk down the street in Hometown USA we rather not think about the guy on the corner. You know they guy I am talking about he has a sigh that says “homeless veteran please help” We rather go on our day and walk past him. Before you do you should know there approximately 200,000 veterans sleeping on our streets or shelters tonight. This means 1 out of 3 of the homeless population is veterans. 1 out of 2 of the homeless veteran’s population is Vietnam era veterans (47%). 3 out of 4 have reported alcohol, drug or mental health issues. (76%)
Many of our veterans are self medicating and are leading to self distrusting behaviors. According to a report by The Journal of The American Medical Association. Our young veterans are binge drinking and other related alcohol issues, these issues include but not limited to arrest, DUI, lost of jobs and sometimes lost of their family’s. Our active duty members are being discharged for misconduct for alcohol related issues and this will follow them for rest of their life. We need to ask our self what came first alcoholism or the PTSD?
Important Statistics about Veterans
- Suicide among our veterans
- 120 veterans commit suicide every week (17 a day)
- 1,000 Veterans attempt suicide in the VA System each month
- Approximately 21% of the population committing suicide our veterans
- Veterans that fought the war on terror were 4 times more likely to commit suicide (18 to 24 age group)
- Veterans Homeless Population
- 33% of homeless population are veterans (approximately 200,000 Veterans)
- 47% of our homeless veterans are Vietnam Era Veterans
- 76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
- 46% of age 45 or older are veterans compared to 20% of the same age group are non-veterans
- 67% served three or more years
- 89% received an honorable discharge
- Incarcerated Veterans
- In 1998, an estimated 56,500 Vietnam War-era veterans and 18,500 Persian Gulf War veterans were held in State and Federal prisons.
- Veterans’ sentences averaged 3 years longer than other State prisoners
- In 1986 20.2% of State and 24.9% of Federal prison inmates were veterans. (10 years after Vietnam War ended)
- Nearly 60% of incarcerated veterans had served in the Army
- Veterans inmates were more likely to be violent offenders
- Veterans dependence were higher amount veterans inmates
- Our veterans that are returning home.
- Nearly one in five service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan (approximately 300,000) have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms or major depression
- 19 percent of post-Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with possible traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to a RAND Corp. (Center for Military Health Policy Research) study
- A higher percentage of these veterans suffer from PTSD than from any other previous war because of “stop loss” (an involuntary extension of service in the military), multiple tours, and greater prevalence of brain injuries
- All of these numbers add up to 655,000 US casualties (psychological, brain injury, and “normal” casualties) in Iraq and Afghanistan, an average of fewer than 101,000 Americans killed or wounded every year since the wars began
What does all this mean?
In my research I have found many opinions why, who are responsible and a lot of pointing fingers. Some say military are discharging many of these veterans with misconduct or personality disorder after their tour so we don’t have to pay them VA benefits after there are discharged with PTSD. Conspiracy Theory, you may call it, but I have little more confidence in my Country and my leaders. I believe is has been an oversight and my goal is to bring this to the attention to my leaders. In the following pages I will also show how much it will cost the taxpayers to incarcerated a veteran, what is the cost of a homeless veteran. This cost exceeds the cost of VA Benefits at 100%. A Veteran with no dependent as of December 2010 will receive $2,673 per month or annually $32,076. A veteran with spouse and 2 dependent would receive $3,007 per month or $36,084 annually.
Cost of keeping a prisoner is $92,000 a year according to a report Department of Corrections 2007/2008; this is nearly 3 times more than a single veteran receiving 100% disability. Our homeless population can cost the tax payer an average of $3,700 per emergency room visit and on average 5 visit a year, and when admit to the hospital they will spend 3 nights on average cost of $9,000 per stay. This break down to about $44,000 per year per head of homeless population, this amount is more that 100% veteran would be paid with a spouse 2 kids. If the conspiracy theory population is right then our government is losing money and should reconsider there policy. But as a stated earlier I have more faith in my government and my leaders.
PTSD has been called the signature wound of OIF and OEF, but little has been done to help train our military personal to look for signs. Let’s look at a case I found solider lets that was discharged from the military for a pattern of misconduct. What I don’t understand before he discharged he was diagnosed with PTSD by a military Doctor. The solider was transfer to Fort Bragg and was given antidepressants and sleeping aids for his PTSD. The solider missed formation from over sleeping, and stated it was from the sleeping pills that his military prescribed him. The solider also stated to heavily drink alcohol which led him to trouble with the law. The solider requested a medical discharge after having a flash back at a firing range when he came out the firing sequence was over, and this is something you don’t do as a soldier. He was only allowed one meeting per month to see psychologist. His discharge he request was very slow. The solider had a violence complaint from his girl friend for domestic violence. Solider became intoxicated off post a weekend getaway ended up fight cops and being arrested, even though a Judge found compassion for our solider the Army did not they found his behavior unacceptable and gave him a discharged him for misconduct. The solider served 2 tours for his country received Good Conduct Medal, 2 Army Commendation Medals… This is the same solider that was discharged for misconduct and was diagnosed with PTSD by military Doctor. This solider is not the only case I found. Another solider enlisted in the military in 2005 and was proud to be a soldier. When the soldier went to ask for help he was sent to a civilian doctor and he was diagnosed with PTSD. He was given some prescriptions from his doctor and he stated he seemed to help him and he was getting out soon when his contract expired. When his date approached his was notified that he has been stopped-loosed. Shortly after he was told he was instructed he was going back to IRAQ even though he had not received treatment for his PTSD (only medication) He told his command that he could not go back because of his PTSD and they asked him if he was suicidal he told them no, they told him good and sent him on his way. Then he made a decision to go AWOL. After receiving some advice he reported back in Dec. 2009 to Fort Hood Texas and was thrown in jail for 30 days in Bell County jail in Texas. After serving 25 days of sentence he received other than honorable discharged. In both these case there discharge would not allow them to receive VA Benefits. That means no treatment for their PTSD. There are thousands of cases similar to these; between 2001 thru 2007 26,000 soldiers have been diagnosed with personality disorder. The problem is that personality disorder shows signs in late adolescence and the beginning of adulthood and, in rare instances, childhood. We must ask, WHY are we not treating our soldiers?
I am asking our leaders our Congress men and our Senators to pass Protect our Veteran Act. This act has four bills to protect our services men and woman who served in combat and or combat zone or any who have had adverse affects from combat or military services.
I want to propose a Bill that will make in mandatory that all active duty personal during war or who served in combat and or combat zone or any who have had adverse affects from combat or military services (i.e. Doctors, medics, etc.). must go though PTSD Screening before they have been discharged. The military already mandates that all military personal to dental exam, health exam, eye exam I believe we should add PTSD screening as well. During the evaluation if they are diagnosed with PTSD no matter what the discharge is (.i.e. dishonorable, other than honorable) they will receive a medical discharge from the services. This will enable veterans to receive treatment for their PTSD.
If a veteran during his/her life commits a crime he/she must be evaluated for PTSD, the reason in many cases PTSD may lie dominate for years and may not have been diagnosed at the time of discharged. Many of these veterans have untreated or undiagnosed PTSD to only find them self facing jail or prison for crimes there PTSD committed. As stated above nearly 25% of federal prisoners 10 years after the conclusion of the Vietnam War were veterans. If a war or combat veteran commits a crime he/she must go thru mental evaluation for PTSD and other mentally illness caused by military services. If he/she is found with PTSD the court cannot prosecute due to a mental illness and is unfit to stand trial. The Definition is determination that an accused, on account of a mental disorder, cannot be tried because he or she cannot understand the nature or possible consequences of the proceedings or communicate with counsel. PTSD is a mental illness and must be treated as one.
If someone is discharged from the military and was not found to have PTSD at the time of discharged him/her if served in combat may go to the VA for PTSD treatment at anytime of their life regardless of discharge status and if PTSD is diagnosed he/she may request other VA Benefits. Our veterans and Active duty members deserve our best because they gave us there best, they must know, know matter what we are behind them.
By providing open treatment for who served will help eliminate our veterans from sleeping on the streets, out of jail, probe treatment will lower or eliminate self medication and binge drinking and dramatically reduce the suicide rates among veterans.
Forth bill Education
We must not only educate our leaders in the military services but our judicial system including the judge, officer, jailer and probation officers. Judges should seek professional opinions about PTSD and make sure that the receive treatment not jail time. Recognizing suicidal behaviors and PTSD behaviors is the responsibility of all leaders and we should make training and classes readily available at the VA’s for family members and leaders to take at no charge.
We must make these bills retroactive for all military personal. These men and woman served in our country during a time of war and we must recognized these individual and help them to the road to recovery. If we continued to protect our veterans thru out there life and provide them treatment we will reduce or even eliminate veterans in prison like we saw after Vietnam. If we can screen PTSD at an early stage I believe we can dramatically reduce homelessness, suicide and incarceration of our veterans.
As leaders we must ask our self these questions. Did they fight for our country? What came first PTSD or Misconduct? They were mentally healthy when they came in, are they mentally healthy when they leave the services?
Do we as American and business owners show the same core values to our veterans when they come home? Memorials are a great way to show appreciation for our veterans that have passed or were killed in action but let’s not wait until they pass to show our appreciation for their brave service. Let’s get involved and make changes to our laws to protect our veterans, especially to make sure that the 300,000 with PTSD and 320,000 with TBI veterans are properly treated, not jailed or allowed to slip away to homelessness or lose another veteran to senseless tragedy of suicide. If we do not act now, another veterans will commit suicide, another veteran will sleep on the street tonight, some judge will sentence a veteran to jail for crime that his PTSD committed. So I beg you as a veteran pass this law; “Protect our Veterans Act” before it’s too late.