(PRE-CONFERENCE RESEARCH ASSESSMENT)
EXAMINING THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PTSD, VETERAN SUICIDES, AND ECONOMIC HARDSHIP:
A Huffington Post article from earlier this year entitled, “5 Growing Problems Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans Face,” examines the connections between traumatic health & wellness issues resulting from military service, and the growing economic disparities that exists f from an unemployment & transitional workforce perspective. According to the report, “about 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010 and 228,875 troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan returned with PTSD as of 2012, a crippling condition some experts say close relatives can contract.” This incline coincides directly with rising unemployment from within the military community. The unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans; 9.4% at the time the report was conducted (March, 2013); was up from 7.6% in the same period in 2012. Retired Army Captain and author Wes Moore further discusses how rising unemployment and rising cases of veteran suicide deaths track within range of each other on a 2013 Memorial Day broadcast on MSNBC; siting how the inability to find and maintain gainful employment; commensurate with the veteran’s skills, interests, and dignity; help to foster a socio-economic environment where veterans have resorted to suicide as a result of their struggle with PTSD, in response to economic conditions that have made it difficult to provide for their families. | (additional references: i, ii)
COMBATING THE DISPROPORTIONATELY HIGH RATES OF UNEMPLOYMENT AMONGST VETERANS & RECENTLY TRANSITIONED SERVICE-MEMBER, AND THE SOCIETAL MIS-EVALUATION OF MILITARY TALENT WITHIN THE CIVILIAN WORKFORCE:
According to a report conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2011, “Veterans who (have transitioned out of) military service in the past decade have an unemployment rate (that steadily remains) above that of the overall national rate.” Additionally, the jobless rate for veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 exceeded 20 percent throughout the course of the entire 2012 calendar year, with transitioning service-members ages 25-34 suffering from double-digit rates even as the national unemployment rate steadily declined towards the end of the last year. It is also worth mentioning that the unemployment rate for both age groups was higher than for their non-veteran peers, and thus also higher than the national average. In essence, because of limited job experience outside the military, many of today’s young veterans have difficulty expanding upon how the skills they’ve acquired through their military service translate into the private sector.
Alternatively, hiring personnel have expressed the difficulty in evaluating talent transitioning from military service. While reports have shown that unemployment among veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan War declined over the last year, the overall unemployment rate for new veterans has stayed the same. According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), “veterans are considered less desirable than younger applicants with more specific skills, despite the experience and training veterans receive” (as mentioned in the exhibits article entitled: “BLS Report”). Our speaker series and conference programs aim to bring together leaders in health, wellness, and economic development to identify, develop, and introduce innovative approaches to combating the challenges faced by our service-members.
THE SOCIAL MISCONCEPTIONS OF “PTSD,” HIRING & HUMAN RESOURCES PRACTICES, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR VETERANS TO FIND GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT:
According to a 2010 report published by the Los Angeles Times, “nearly a third of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD, severe depression or traumatic brain injury” (via a 2008 study by the Rand Corp). Many of these new veterans struggle to find and retain civilian jobs; and not only are they returning to an economy in recovery, but many employers do not “know how to accommodate these invisible wounds and worry that military hires might experience a traumatic outburst.” The article goes on the describe how employers express hesitancy in their hiring practices because they aren’t sure as to “what to expect from a person with PTSD or a [traumatic] brain injury”… which could include “severe headaches, memory lapses, poor concentration, slurred speech, loss of balance, a short temper and anxiety in a crowded environment.” Research show that hiring personnel are more likely to equate the perceived psychological symptoms of PTSD brought on by military combat differently than PTSD brought on by other experiences, such as a traumatic, life altering social or domestic experience. Thus, the condition with respect to military personnel is linked with that of violent outbursts, as opposed to being seen as a health condition that is treatable. The report goes on to mention: “when the Society for Human Resource Management surveyed its members in June of 2010, 46% said they believed post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues posed a hiring challenge; just 22% said the same about combat-related physical disabilities;” which suggests that there is an apparent mis-comprehension regarding the social impacts that combat veterans living with PTSD will have within an office culture. This shared misconception, held by a relatively high percentage of those in positions of hiring authority, advances the disproportionately high rate of socio-economic displacement experienced by our veterans, reservists, and military retirees. | (additional references: iii)
“Although flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 57,849 veterans are homeless on any given night. Approximately 12,700 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) were homeless in 2010. The number of young homeless veterans is increasing, but only constitutes 8.8% of the overall homeless veteran population.”
Exploring the Cause of Veterans Homelessness:
“In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Additionally, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.”
” A recent study conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that 12 of the 23 cities surveyed had to turn people in need of shelter away due to a lack of capacity. Ten of the cities found an increase in households with children seeking access to shelters and transitional housing while six cities cited increases in the numbers of individuals seeking these resources (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2007). On an average night in the 23 cities surveyed, 94 percent of people living on the streets were single adults, 4 percent were part of families and 2 percent were unaccompanied minors. Seventy percent of those in emergency shelters were single adults, 29 percent were part of families and 1 percent were unaccompanied minors. Of those in transitional housing, 43 percent were single adults, 56 percent were part of families, and 1 percent were unaccompanied minors. Those who occupied permanent supportive housing were 60 percent single adults, 39.5 percent were part of families, and .5 percent were unaccompanied minors (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008).”
“The average length of stay in emergency shelter was 69 days for single men, 51 days for single women, and 70 days for families. For those staying in transitional housing, the average stay for single men was 175 days, 196 days for single women, and 223 days for families. Permanent supportive housing had the longest average stay, with 556 days for single men, 571 days for single women, and 604 days for women (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008). The homeless population is estimated to be 42 percent African-American, 39 percent white, 13 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Native American and 2 percent Asian, although it varies widely depending on the part of the country. An average of 26 percent of homeless people are considered mentally ill, while 13 percent of homeless individuals were physically disabled (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008). Nineteen percent of single homeless people are victims of domestic violence while 13 percent are veterans and 2 percent are HIV positive. Nineteen percent of homeless people are employed (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2008).”
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