The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult. In fact, the military to civilian transition period is a time when veterans suicide rates are increased. A subgroup of veterans that is more susceptible to having difficulty coping during these transitions includes veterans with service-connected disabilities. New research shows that former service members looking for work in civilian life experience poorer mental health, less life satisfaction, a higher incidence of PTSD, greater levels of depression, and significantly higher financial distress than other veterans or civilians making similar transitions.
The Scope of Military to Civilian Transition Problems
Every year about two hundred thousand men and women transition from military service to civilian life. Surveys of this population in the post-9/11 ear have typically reported that six out of ten have significant difficulties in their adjustment. This is markedly higher than the roughly one in four rate of having difficulties in previous times. Military to civilian life transition includes changes in income, home life, daily schedules, and more. Financial security is a major issue for transitioning veterans with roughly a third of vets reporting financial troubles in the year prior to a survey compared to about half that rate in previous times. Repeated rejections on job applications is an issue that confronts veterans and leads to significant declines in mental health. Anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric problems lead to trouble getting a job and difficulty getting and keeping employment lead to more depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems.
Service-connected Disability and Military to Civilian Life Transition
Surveys of transitioning veterans have shown as many as 53% with chronic physical problems and a third with chronic mental health issues including sleep difficulties, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. The rate of veterans applying for service-connected disabilities has risen during the post 9/11 era with forty-one percent of post 9/11 vets having at least one service-connected disability. The severity of disabilities has gone up as well with cumulative disability ratings of sixty percent or more to more than half registered. Four million seven hundred thousand veterans have documented service-connected disabilities. The first step in dealing with problems in this group has been to provide better documentation of who is involved and what their problems are. Then the issue is to identify those in need and connect them to the necessary help.
Social Isolation, Mental Health, and Veteran Suicide
At No Fallen Heroes we are dedicated to the reduction and elimination of veteran suicide. This effort starts with reducing the isolation that takes hold when vets are unable to successfully reintegrate into civilian life. Depression, PTSD, and substance abuse problems go untreated and become major risk factors for suicide. We are particularly excited about the prospect of psychedelic medicines being OK’d by the FDA for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and addictive disorders. However, for these adjunctive therapies to be beneficial they need to be used in professional settings and that requires the identification of those at risk, especially those transitioning veterans with service-connected disabilities.
The “ask the question” and “adopt-a-vet programs” are particularly helpful in helping prevent progressive isolation of vets having difficulties in moving into successful and safe civilian life. The adopt-a-vet provides necessary human connections but taking the time to get to know a vet and having the insight to ask the question about how they are really doing and if they ever think of suicide is crucial to identifying those at most risk. Veterans who are receiving benefits injuries incurred while in military service are connected to the VA system but it can be a struggle to get appointments and necessary services. At those times a veteran needs to check in with a veterans’ service office and officer for assistance in getting the help that they here is also where the programs that connect the vet to another interested person are useful in assuring follow through for appointments, medications, and urgent care visits with emergencies arise. The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult for all veterans and especially for those with service-connected disabilities but with connections to the right persons and programs help is available.