Unemployment and Homelessness of Veterans
Often our veterans entered the military while their peers were going to college. When veterans return to civilian life, they often find that they lag behind their peers who have gotten a college degree and/or gained work experience. We need to ensure that this “gap” does not hinder our heroes when they assimilate back into civilian life.
When our military personnel are nearing the expiration of their service, we need to provide them with the tools for successful transition into civilian life. We can achieve this goal by providing a four week transitional exit course. This would be mandatory for every military personnel preparing to separate from the military and transition back into civilian life. The course would cover mental health evaluations, evaluations for college courses/career counseling, how to register for college courses, how to choose a major that is right for you, assistance with filling out college application and the application letters, how to construct a resume and cover letter, where to look for jobs (especially ones that hire veterans), how to dress and act on a job interview, how to find housing resources, how to make a budget, opening a back account (if one isn’t already open), and so much more.
This transitional exit course is meant to fill in the gaps that the veteran may have from going straight from parental custody to military custody. This can help to ease the “culture shock” that many experience when trying to adjust to a civilian life on their own, which many have never experienced.
Veterans should be automatically signed up for employment assistance through the VA (Veterans Affairs) for at least one year after separation from the military, with ongoing employment assistance on an as-needed basis after the first year. This is to ensure that we continue to work with the veteran to make the transition as smooth as possible.
The VA already has a program for Transitioning Service Members. However, it appears to be something that is merely “available”. It should be made mandatory, to ensure that every transitioning service member has access to the resources and have a clear understanding of where all their resources are for future reference. The burden should not be on the veteran to seek out the assistance. The burden should be on our military personnel to ensure that every veteran has had the assistance given.
The VA would be directed to open a job listing site specifically for veterans to access and a housing site specifically for veterans. These sites would allow for veterans to be able to locate veteran-friendly employers and veteran-friendly housing to make transition, and the years following transition, much easier. It would also be available for veterans who have been out of the military for years or decades, but are struggling with finding work or housing.
One of the benefits we must be able to provide for our veterans is relocation assistance. After a veteran has been out of the military, he or she may suffer job loss or a challenging economic period. If the veteran is struggling to find work near his or her home, but there are jobs available in another state, the VA would be able to provide relocation assistance in the form of an interest-free loan so the veteran can get relocated and working as soon as possible.
Any veteran found to be homeless should immediately be brought in for evaluations so we can assess his or her individual needs and serve those needs, whether it is health care, mental health, drug rehabilitation, finding work, financial assistance, and so forth. Our veterans deserve so much more than to be living on the street. We must intervene, without judgement, and get them whatever assistance they need, regardless of how long they have been out of the military. Once a veteran, always a veteran!
Mandatory Military and First Responders Mental Health Checkups
Our men and women who serve in our armed forces have served our nation proudly. But that service often comes at a huge, but invisible, cost. The structure of the military can be difficult for some people, while others are struggling with the effects of combat. Although many of our veterans have suffered more than any of us can imagine, they are also the ones most likely to not seek out “mental health” professionals. Our heroes often deal with impossible situations of life and death. When they survive that battle, they expect that they should be strong enough to win the mental and emotional battles going on in their hearts and minds.
We must step in and ensure that these brave heroes get the help they need regardless of whether they seek it out for themselves or not. Our military needs to be instructed to provide routine mental health checkups for every enlisted person at a rate of every six months. For each enlisted person serving in combat roles and/or combat areas, those mental health checkups must be required every month. When the soldier returns home after serving in a combat role or combat area, they should be required to have a full week of impatient mental health evaluation, followed by weekly mental health checkups for the first year home, and monthly for the second year. After two years, the mental health professional would be required to suggest how much ongoing mental health care would be needed.
We must also attack the stigma of mental health. These heroes need to understand that mental health checkups are just as important as physicals. A mental health illness does not diminish the soldier’s bravery or courage. We need to embrace mental health as just another aspect of physical health.
Suicide rates are very high among our brave military heroes. They should never suffer in silence or alone. We need to lift them up with health, healing, love, and compassion (NOT PITY). The only way to combat suicide by our veterans is to not allow the enemies of depression, anxiety, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and so forth, to gain a foothold on our precious heroes.
They protect our freedoms so that we can live in relative peace. We need to protect them from the demons that attack their minds, so they can also live in relative peace. They protect us physically. We need to protect them mentally. They protected our bodies. We need to protect their minds.