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Veterans Struggling to Adapt: Life after War

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Wars are strategic plans that governments develop to gain valuable resources. According to the United States Department of State, powerful nations have camouflaged their intentions and have led society to believe that there was a war against terrorism. For the past decade, the United States has been invading Iraq and Afghanistan soil and thousands of soldiers have perished as a result (Maceda 2). The United States government announced to the public that weapons of mass destruction were present in Iraq and that it was a political obligation to intervene. These weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to the United States and their allies, war was declared and invasion was inevitable.

Although there was no proof of such allegations, the United States and their allies initiated war, and United States troops were quickly deployed into a foreign battleground. After a long decade of unceasing struggle, the war continues, and troops remain in the region. Derek Coy, a former United States Marine Sergeant said veterans including himself struggle both mentally and physically (qtd in Maceda 1). Problems that returning veterans are challenged with is the deficiency of a competent healthcare system, poverty, and lack of family support to prevent homelessness. Homelessness continues to affect and to create a problem for returning veterans (Dalgish).

Homelessness predominates in hundreds of cities across the United States. It is common sight to witness people sleeping on bus benches and near subway stations. The United States government has created various shelters to combat this problem; nevertheless, veterans are still at risk of homelessness, losing their families. Stephen Metraux concluded that, “A Government agency like the Veterans affair has implemented an efficient use of homelessness prevention services, which included $100 million under the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families program in fiscal year 2012, and help make good on the Veterans Affair overall commitment to end veteran homelessness by 2015” (7). The veterans’ affair healthcare system has had accusations of mismanagement, falsified records and preventable patient deaths (Landen 1).

According to Rachel Landen, for quite some time, veterans have had difficulties scheduling appointments for their healthcare needs and healthcare administrations have had problems with recordkeeping on wait times (1). “Under a 1996 law, disabled veterans needing care must be seen by a provider within 30 days, but they found out that two-thirds of their clinics they examined had longer wait times than thirty days” (Landen 2). Also, allegations were made of mismanagement at gastroenterology clinic in South Carolina; an inspector had to review causes of delay in care (Landen 2). They came to find out that there was a backlog of twenty-five hundred delayed consults and seven hundred were considered critical (Landen 2). Many of those patients were diagnosed with gastrointestinal malignancies and fifty-two of those patients were delayed in diagnosis or treatment; six of those patients had died (Landen 2).

Homelessness has been an issue in every war and protective measures have not prevented it because the veteran homeless population has greatly increased in the last several years. Similarly, Vietnam veterans are still amongst the homeless population. Homelessness does not discriminate race or gender; it is a problem that combat soldiers experience. The primary reason veterans become homeless is because veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (Metraux et al. S255). Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event (Rieckhoff). Rieckhoff continues to say, “One-third of Iraq veterans will face PTSD or another mental health problem; if left untreated, the mental health effects of combat can lead to unemployment, drug abuse, homeless, and even suicide” (Rieckhoff).

According to Ira Katz, “Analyses of mortality data presented in the data points column show that among veterans with diagnoses of severe mental illness, homelessness was a stronger contributor that diagnosis to years of potential life lost” (605). Veterans suffer from this illness once they return home, and it makes it difficult for them to adapt to a civilian lifestyle. In an article on the homeless among veterans, the “emotional trauma” suffered in war zones by combat veterans are “both a cause and a consequence of homelessness” among veterans. They suggested that many veterans suffer from a “culture shock” and thus experience difficulties in transitioning from a military to a civilian life (Veterans Today). They are a barrier because is full of terrible memories of fallen comrades and enemy killings. Since the day a solider is deployed overseas, bloodshed and cruelty inundates their life. Although combat soldiers are trained physically to endure life in the battleground, it has a negative effect in their mental state.

Veterans are not mentally stable and are not ready to adapt to a civilian life without psychological assistance. This makes the transition more difficult because they are not willing to readjust their perception about their shifting lifestyles. For example, in the novel The Things they Carried, by Tim O’Brien, one of the returning veterans was not able to adapt once again to his anterior lifestyle. The lifestyle that he lived outside the war became dull and boring; there was no excitement in the undisturbed community that he lived in. Ultimately, he opted to end his life because the way of life he once knew had ended months before his return. These soldiers lack cognitive support and a fundamental employment to be financially stable; many walk the streets while abusing drugs and alcohol (qtd. in SparkNotes).

In alarming statistics, veterans who become homeless are prone to committing suicide because they feel helpless. Among the veterans who died by suicide, five hundred sixty-one (3.6%) had a history of homelessness (Bossarte 714). Robert Bossarte states, “Suicide among homeless veterans had a single peak during middle age” (714). Veterans are predisposed to suffer from homelessness than the regular population. According to Wilbur Scott, “With the PTSD diagnosis, psychiatrists now say it is “normal” for the horrors of war to traumatize people; war neurosis, or PTSD, occurs when this trauma is not recognized and is left untreated” (28). These war veterans are primarily at risk because they were deployed at a young age and this exposure resulted in severe psychological effects. Metraux concluded that, “Service in Iraq or Afghanistan and more specifically, post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans deployed there were significant risk factors of modest magnitude for homelessness and socioeconomic and behavioral health factors provided stronger indicators of risk” (S255). A cohort study was conducted to examine factors on the possibility of becoming homeless among Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans (Metraux et al. S260). The results of this study showed that pay grade and diagnosis of behavioral health disorder amongst veterans did have an effect on them and homelessness occurred in a majority of veterans (Metraux et al. S260).

Administrative data sources and targeted screening instruments are ways to prevent veterans from becoming homeless, and it will be more precise in assessing each veteran from being homeless (Metraux et al. S260).Soldiers do not express their emotions, they carry a baggage of blame and nostalgic feelings back home. Once these veterans leave Iraq soil, many begin fighting their own battles to reconnect with their earlier lifestyle. Since this is their last internal battle between reality and fiction, it affects them within their family nucleus. After a prolonged departure from their homes, arriving veterans feel disoriented and unaccustomed in their country and their home. Many families have not been educated in how to deal with veterans and many struggle adapting to them. According to Paul Rieckhoff, “A high percentage of married U.S. soldiers in Iraq say their marriages are headed toward divorce (8). Veterans’ have been absent for so long that they become strangers to their families. Repeated conflicts were caused due to the lack of comprehension on how to aid them with their internal struggles. Many Americans can be humble and open their homes and provide help to veterans (Rieckhoff).

Rieckhoff also states, “We can support this new generation of veterans by volunteering our time, donating money, or reaching out to a local military family in need” (Rieckhoff). The generation of veterans needs the assistance and compassion and by giving them these needs, this can make a dramatic change to a family in need. This can make a big difference to a family under great strain, says Paul Rieckhoff. John Hemler’s study confirms that, “Veterans have learned that neither training programs in the military nor their acquired skills help them find jobs or earn equal pay with civilians” (224). Veterans are returning home to a fractured economy, and the country is absolutely different than the past decade. Dealing with these frustrations, veterans try to find employment in a failing economy. The government assists them with a monthly check, but life changes for most veterans. Many veterans return home without any skills or training that will aid them to obtain a decent job. Additional obstacles for veterans become evident because veterans lack civilian expertise in dealing with the needs of society. As a result, veterans fall into financial difficulty which causes them to lose their homes and become another homeless statistic.

Homelessness is a problem that most veterans are facing. Deficiency of a competent healthcare system, poverty, and lack of family support to prevent homelessness is a major problem that returning veterans are challenged with. Veterans return home and continue to struggle in having proper survival accommodations. Soldiers are often found homeless, without families, and jobless due to the insufficient resources offered to them. The government has to be more involved in providing all the resources for a veteran to adapt to a civilian lifestyle (Maceda 2). These men and women served the country to bring society together with other nations, but in return are faced with their own battles (Maceda 3). Although combat soldiers give their lives in the battlefield; they are not rewarded for time and effort invested. Many of these soldiers tend to be unemployed because they are not able to get a job that is beneficial to them and their mental state affects their employment and daily life. Homelessness continues to affect and create a problem for returning veterans.

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