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Mukherjee writes: "This Saturday marks Veterans Day, when Americans pay respect to those who have served in the armed forces. But it also marks an opportunity to highlight the issues most important to military families - and few are quite as significant as the persistent holes in medical care and socioeconomic ills which afflict veterans' health."

A U.S. military veteran prepares to take his medication at Central Union Mission, in Washington, D.C., which provides shelter for homeless men. (photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/Getty Images)
A U.S. military veteran prepares to take his medication at Central Union Mission, in Washington, D.C., which provides shelter for homeless men. (photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/Getty Images)


What's Killing America's Veterans? Here's What the Data Says

By Sy Mukherjee, Fortune

11 November 17

 

his Saturday marks Veterans Day, when Americans pay respect to those who have served in the armed forces. But it also marks an opportunity to highlight the issues most important to military families—and few are quite as significant as the persistent holes in medical care and socioeconomic ills which afflict veterans’ health.

Suicide and drug overdoses are two of the biggest killers of veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Suicide Prevention, an average of 20 veterans committed suicide every day in 2014. In fact, 18% of all American adult suicides that year were committed by veterans, even though veterans made up just 8.5% of the population. Male veterans had a 19% higher risk for suicide compared to the general population while women veterans were 2.5 times as likely to kill themselves compared to the female civilian population, and suicide rates were highest among young veterans aged 18 to 29.

Those are some brutal figures, and as the VA points out in its most recent comprehensive suicide report, a big part of the problem is that veterans either don’t get—or don’t have access to—the health care services to which they’re entitled. A blistering Inspector General report from 2015 found that more than 300,000 veterans likely died while waiting for VA health care, including some who committed suicide as they waited for mental health services for conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

And then there’s the ever-exploding opioid addiction and overdose crisis. Accidental overdoses in particular have hit veterans harder than the broader American populace, as Reuters reports, in part because veterans are more likely to be prescribed painkillers to treat injuries maintained during combat. All told, veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental painkiller overdoses compared to civilians, federal data shows.

The challenges to veterans’ health care are also exacerbated by the high rates of homelessness in the community. Nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and that sort of living situation is linked with both mental health problems and drug addiction. “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,” writes the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

The VA has been fighting to reverse a years-long trend of medical claims backlogs to get care to veterans more promptly; but, as the sobering statistics show, fixing veterans’ health care is an uphill undertaking.


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+3 # jimmythelark 2017-11-12 05:06
I am a Veteran (USMC- 69-72), worked at the VA (75-84) as a Counseling Psychologist M.A., have been a PATIENT at the VA (WLA) since I got out-used Blue-Cross/Blue Shield for Psychological Care - the VA is the best Health Care System in the world !! Their doctors and staff,and INTERNS are devoted -wages should be increased ( doubled) but term of service should be a max of 5 years!! Burnout is a problem. The real problem with the VA system is the VARO (VA Regional Office) they only hire people who say NO !! They are the insurance end of the VA Medical System-deny everything is their MOTTO ! FLOOD the VA HOSPITALS with PSYCHOLOGISTS and PSYCH Interns who sit down and do DAILY THERAPY with VETERANS !! Not PSYCHIATRISTS who prescribe medications and compound the TRAGEDY !! Interns are not BURNT OUT !! They are ALIVE and EAGER , YOUNG and OPTIMISTIC !! They transfer their ENERGY and give HOPE to Veterans TRAUMATIZED by WAR and our INSANE ADDICTION to KILLING !! The MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX should be required to pay for the health CARE of all VETERANS !! STOP using our young people as your PRIVATE ARMY in foreign LANDS !! Each enlistee in our armed forces should be handed a CHECK for 200,000 before he goes in financed by the MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! Stop using our young people as your PRIVATE ARMY !! You GREEDY BASTARDS !! STOP TURNING OUR YOUNG PEOPLE INTO KILLERS !! WITHOUT PSYCHOLOGICAL HELP UPON RETURN TO THE "GREAT" U.S.A.????????? ?
 
 
+5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-11-12 07:52
It is just a plain fact that the Pentagon does not give a shit about veterans. Once someone is no longer a killer for the Pentagon, he/she is dumped like yesterday's trash. That's the biggest killer of Vets -- it is the Pentagon.

There's a lot congress could do, but it does not care either. It wants soldiers, not vets.
 
 
+6 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-11-12 09:23
So much for ‘Support the troops!’: instead, use ‘em, abuse em & lose ‘em. & it’s always been that way: serve, then be discarded.
 
 
0 # jsluka 2017-11-12 14:28
It's pretty obvious that Americans (in general) don't really give a flying fart about the veterans of of the forever war. They say they do, but actions speak louder than words.
 
 
0 # elizabethblock 2017-11-12 15:13
So. Did LaDavid Johnson - do any soldiers - know what they're signing up for?
 

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