9/11 era veterans (those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq) and the battle of their healthcare has been a long saga and at times a thorn in the side, for those who desperately need help post serving. It should be simple to give those who served healthcare, but it has been a hardship to maneuver. There is, of course, no easy fix. The stresses of choosing to serve our country have been painfully evident for years, and it seems like we are just starting to become more active in advocating for our veterans. In 2014, the suicide rate among veterans was about twenty-two percent higher than among adults who had not served in the military, the VA reported in September.
The VA has had persistent problems trying to care for the more than four million service members who have left duty since the start of the U.S.'s 16-year war in Afghanistan. With the number of the veterans so large and the numbers of people available to help significantly smaller, especially since the number of those who are equipped to help in the most needed ways, there is a challenge to emotionally and physically see every veteran. That is when veterans struggle if they are not seen.
Due to the aforementioned circumstances, a committee has started to fight for veterans’ healthcare rights as they are entitled to them. While many veterans do indeed receive good mental health care through Veterans Affairs, it's inconsistent across the system, according to the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine-nonprofit institutions that inform public policy. The detailed, 439-page assessment of the VA's mental health services was ordered by Congress in 2013 and completed by a committee of eighteen academics.
The academics have worked together for those who are not in the perfect position to speak about those issues. And what they witnessed and heard is something that everyone should be aware of. What was reported that mundane issues like navigating parking for therapy were something that was a stressor for them, if they were dealing with mental illnesses, getting help did seem like an uphill battle as the need was high, yet the support they felt was limited. As stated in the committee’s findings, other factors such as lack of social support, distance, and fear of revealing a mental health issue may discourage veterans from seeking care at all.
This is something we should be able to change and with this progress set in place, we should be on target to do so. Breaking down barriers to care will require reaching out to veterans and streamlining application processes, as well as investments in the VA workforce, facilities, and technology, according to the report.
Emily Blair, manager of military and veterans policy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nonprofit advocacy group, realizes that their goal of giving adequate healthcare to all veterans in three to five years is “an optimistic goal”, but is worth shooting for the stars for.