What American Veterans Face in 2018

Homelessness, a chaotic VA, PTSD, and a shrinking cohort are just some of the challenges for the group—and the country.
Author:
Publish date:
GettyImages-116282607

This year, people born in 2000 turn 18. They've reached the age of majority—they can vote, buy tobacco in most jurisdictions, drive, and join the military. They've also never known an America at peace: Because the country has been at war continuously since 2001, the United States' youngest service members can't recall a time without it. The constant, far-off conflicts have been dubbed America's "forever wars," and it's becoming increasingly difficult to count just how many people are currently fighting them.

But even though our military technologies and strategies have changed and adapted to a global war on terror, our veterans' services and care for returning soldiers hasn't. Military service is declining among the general population, but so are casualties, creating millions of people whose often-traumatic experiences set them apart from stateside life. Although President Donald Trump said on November 8th that "our vets are doing better than they've ever done," post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and substance use disorders are major mental-health issues among veterans—ones many say the Department of Veterans Affairs is incapable of handling properly.

Sunday was Veterans Day, though it's being observed Monday across the country. Here are some highlights from Pacific Standard's coverage of veterans and their needs.

section-break

Veterans Live Among Greater Diversity

Data from Veterans Affairs loans shows that veterans tend to buy homes in more diverse neighborhoods than the general public—and it's possible the integrated nature of the service and the contact it creates is one reason why.

The Vietnam Veterans Proving They Should Receive Agent Orange Benefits

In 1991, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act, legislation that was supposed to make it easier for veterans sickened by the Vietnam-era herbicide to collect benefits. But it's not that easy—especially if you're already sick.

How U.S. Military Veterans View the Travel Ban

Trump has repeatedly touted his love for veterans, but the diverse group isn't sure it loves him back. Trump's controversial travel ban blocked Iraqis from entering the U.S., but some veterans of the Iraq War who depended on Iraqi translators to make connections with civilians in the country found it discriminatory and unreasonable.

The VA Is Prescribing Fewer Opioids—but Not for the Reason You Think

The opioid crisis is reaching dramatic highs, and veterans are already more vulnerable to substance abuse than the general population. For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs' prescriptions of common opioids climbed: In 2014, the department said it issued 1.7 million opioid prescriptions in outpatient care. Now, it's reckoning with that number and decreasing prescriptions for those who are getting the same prescriptions elsewhere. But that could be bad news for those who are dependent on the prescriptions to function—and for addicts, who are likely to turn to cheap heroin instead.

Rethinking Our Approach to Mental Trauma

Disorders in the aftermath of traumatic events aren't the only possible outcome, according to psychologists. There's also the chance for post-traumatic growth: Relationships, philosophies, and self-image can change in positive ways, especially if patients embrace their own resilience and address deep hurt.

How Americans Can Do More for Retired Soldiers

Transitioning from active duty back into American civilian life is one of the most challenging parts of being a re-entering veteran. Civil society groups are an especially important part of this process, filling gaps and providing services that the government can't for every individual. But it's also important for civilians to reckon with the specific violence we ask military members to perpetrate instead of being blandly appreciative of their "service."

Related