Anna Sussman writes about Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans joining the ranks of the California homeless:
More than 2,000 military personnel return home to California each month. Most have no specialized job experience, education or an easy familiarity with civilian life. And many have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), making it difficult to get along with friends and family, and almost impossible to hold down a job.
“You feel like the whole world is against you when you get home,” said [Ethan] Kreutzer. “I was sleeping on the sidewalk, whereas I had been wearing a uniform less than a year before.” Soft- spoken and restless, Kreutzer was recruited in a 7-Eleven while still in high school. After five months in Afghanistan, he had a mental breakdown, diagnosed as PTSD. When he returned to the United States, he spent almost four years living on the streets.
Tara McElvey’s piece on the VA’s inadequacies is equally perplexing:
Veterans of wars in Vietnam and Korea, many of whom are over 60, generally receive outstanding care at the VA facilities. Yet the newer patients—soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan—are in their 20s and 30s and have a different set of problems. Often, they need help for psychological, not physical, problems.
A study released by RAND Corporation earlier this year shows that roughly 300,000 men and women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan are suffering from mental illness, particularly post-traumatic stress and depression. The VA has been slow to respond to their needs. Only half of these individuals have sought treatment, and they often experience severe delays or minimal care within the VA system.
If you’d like to find ways to support returning veterans, start with Iraq War Veterans Organization (www.iraqwarveterans.org).
The Iraq War Veterans Organization, Inc provides information and support for: Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans, Global War on Terror Veterans, Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans, active military personnel and family members related to pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment issues, as well as service member and family Operation Iraqi Freedom Deployment Readiness problems, information about PTSD, Health issues and Veterans Benefits.
The Iraq War Veterans Organization website has links to information about Department of Veterans Affairs health care, readjustment after deployment, education, employment, military discounts, PTSD issues, support-chat forums, family support and deployment information.