Pre-Conference Research Assessment: "Examining the Connection between PTSD, & Growing Veterans Socio-economic Displacement."

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)

 

CONNECTING THOSE IN NEED WITH PRE-EXISTING FEDERAL ECONOMIC PROGRAMS & BENEFITS:
Beyond the legislative efforts of the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011,the  Obama Administration has also: created resources to help veterans translate their military skills for the civilian workforce (The National Resource Directory, The US Dept. of Labor “Gold Card, etc.); built new online tools to aid their search for jobs (The “My Next Move” transitional database, The “Hero to Hired” veteran recruitment program, etc.); and partnered with the US Chamber of Commerce to make it easier to connect our veterans with companies that want to hire them.  The Administration has also made it a priority to incentivize employers through a series of tax credits, including the Returning Heroes Tax Credit of up to $5,600 for veterans who have been unemployed six months or longer, and the  Wounded Warriors Tax Credit of up to $9,600 that will increase the existing tax credit for firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been unemployed six months or longer; forming a Department of Defense-led task force to maximize the career-readiness of all service-members, and enhancing job search services through the Department of Labor for recently transitioning veterans.  Furthermore, Congress has proposed legislation that encourages communities to hire veterans to work as Policemen and Firefighters by offering preference in selective grant competitions.

Despite the federal government’s best efforts however, many within the military community find difficulty in accessing these resources; whether due to a lack of grassroots outreach, or the mere size and scope of the economic problem which creates administrative hindrances and limitations in servicing capability. | (additional references: iv, v)

 

CONTRIBUTING TO THE NATIONAL EFFORT TO ELIMINATE HOMELESSNESS AND DISPLACEMENT WITHIN THE VETERANS COMMUNITY:
“More than one million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless, while tens of thousands of former service-members are already living without shelter, according to the ‘Center for American Progress.”  In response to these staggering statistics, the Veteran’s Administration has developed programs catered eliminate the economic displacement of retired service-members, including:

  1. The Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program, comprised of three unique programs which assist homeless Veterans in returning to competitive employment: Sheltered Workshop, Transitional Work, and Supported Employment; and
  2. The Homeless Veteran Supported Employment Program (HVSEP) provides vocational assistance, job development and placement, and ongoing supports to improve employment outcomes among homeless Veterans and Veterans at risk of homelessness. Formerly homeless Veterans who have been trained as Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists (VRSs) provide these services.

 

Even still, one in seven homeless people previously served in the military, a December 2011 report found, and much of the other data surrounding homeless veterans are equally worrisome” (according to a 2012 Huffington Post article). | (additional references: vi)

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