Senate Democrats

Reid: Senate Republicans Play Politics With Veterans’ Funding Despite Toll On Those Serve

Washington, DCSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today in response to a new study that found one in four of our nation’s homeless is a veteran:

“The war has stretched the VA dangerously thin, and veterans are paying the price.  A new study out today finds that one in four of our nation’s homeless is a veteran, and Nevada has the fifth-highest rate of homeless veterans in the country.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is on the rise, and with it rising social costs like substance-abuse, homelessness and divorce rates.  The number of uninsured veterans is skyrocketing and veterans struggle to find jobs when they come back.  Our nation owes these men and women the best health care and services available when they return from war.

“But Senate Republicans continue to play politics with crucial funding for veterans.  First, they voted to delay the VA funding bill by stripping it from a combined bill to fund Labor-HHS-Education and Military Construction-VA programs, jeopardizing the chances of having the bill signed in time for Veterans’ Day.  Then, despite its $228 million for veterans’ employment programs, $23.6 million for homeless veterans programs, and $3.4 billion for substance-abuse and mental-health programs vital to veterans, 19 Senate Republicans flip-flopped and voted against the conference report on the Labor-HHS-Education funding bill.  Senate Republicans should put the interests of veterans ahead of partisan politics and their loyalty to President Bush, and they should work with Democrats to pass these crucial bills.”

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THOUSANDS OF IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS ARE EXPECTED TO NEED VA CARE

Upwards of 700,000 Returning Soldiers May Need Some Form of Care from the Veterans Administration. According to the Associated Press, “of 1.4 million U.S. forces deployed for Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 185,000 have sought care from the VA — a number that could easily top 700,000 eventually, predicts one academic analysis. The VA has already treated more than 52,000 for PTSD symptoms alone, a presidential commission finds.” The piece went on to state, Veterans groups finally sued the VA a few months ago, seeking quicker medical care and disability payments for those with PTSD. They claim that the crush of shattered troops has sent the agency into a “virtual meltdown.” [AP, 9/30/07]

Report Estimates Cost of Health Care and Disability for Iraq Veterans Will Be $660 Billion.  “The military operational costs of the war in Iraq, now greater than $500 billion, have surpassed those for the entire Vietnam conflict. These escalating operational costs are alarming, yet the long-term public health costs will be much greater. Providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans will cost far more than is generally being acknowledged. These costs have been estimated at as much as $660 billion. As physicians and health care professionals we are acutely aware of the actual price we are paying in human terms and we are compelled to bring this to the attention of the Congress and the American people.” [Physicians for Social Responsibility, “Shock and Awe Hits Home,” 11/07]

MORE AND MORE VETERANS ARE SUFFERING FROM MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEMS…

Experts Predict Hundreds of Thousands of Iraq Veterans Will Be Diagnosed With PTSD. “The National Center for PTSD uses the conservative figures 12–20 percent for the rate of PTSD expected in veterans returning from Iraq.9 Since 1,500,000 service members have been deployed to date, the number of expected cases is therefore in the hundreds of thousands. More than 50,000 returnees already have been treated for PTSD.” [Physicians for Social Responsibility, “Shock and Awe Hits Home,” 11/07]

Thousands of Iraq War Veterans Plagued with Invisible Scars of Mental Injuries.  “Bocanegra is one of thousands of veterans who have returned from war with mental health problems.  The latest available data, through October, shows that 36,893 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – about 8.5 percent of the 433,398 returned troops – have been seen at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and received a provisional diagnosis of a mental health condition.  Some 15,927 of those received a provisional diagnosis of PTSD.  Through Feb. 11, the Defense Dept. evacuated 1,760 troops from war zones for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and acute stress. [Navy Times, 3/27/07]

Study Found One-Quarter of All veterans Suffer from Mental-Health Problems. “A study published Tuesday of more than 100,000 veterans who have sought medical care since returning from war shows that one-quarter have mental-health problems. Half of those — more than 13,000 people — were diagnosed with PTSD, according to the report in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The disorder affects less than 4 percent of the general public.” [Deseret News, 3/13/07]

  • Experts Worry Rate of PTSD in Iraq Veterans Will Exceed That Found Among Vietnam Veterans. “The physical risks of war may end when a soldier leaves the battlefield, but new research indicates the mental toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is continuing to build, creating a psychological health crisis with no end in sight. Some experts believe the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder, the most common mental-health problem among veterans, may even begin to exceed that seen with veterans of the Vietnam War.” [Deseret News, 3/13/07]

Extended and Repeated Deployments Have Caused Increase in Psychological Problems for Those Returning from the Battlefield. “The detailed mental health survey of troops in Iraq released by the Pentagon on Friday highlights a growing worry for the United States as it struggles to bring order to Baghdad: the high level of combat stress suffered during lengthy and repeated tours… The military’s report, which drew on that survey as well as interviews with commanders and focus groups, found that longer deployments increased the risk of psychological problems.”  [New York Times, 5/6/07]

Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans At Higher Risk for Suicide Than General Population. “Preliminary Veterans Affairs Department research obtained by The Associated Press reveals for the first time that there were at least 283 suicides among veterans who left the military between the start of the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001 and the end of 2005…Today’s homefront suicide tally is running at least double the number of troop suicides in the war zones as thousands of men and women return with disabling injuries and mental health disorders that put them at higher risk.” [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 11/1/07]

Veterans Suffering from PTSD Are More Likely to Suffer from Physical Symptoms Too.  “A year after combat soldiers leave Iraq, those with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder say they’re in worse physical health, suffer more pain and are more likely to miss work than veterans without PTSD, according to a military study out Monday.  The anonymous survey of nearly 3,000 Iraq veterans is the first to look at the link between PTSD and physical symptoms.  It was released at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in Toronto.” [USA Today, 5/23/06]

  • Veterans Suffering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injured Are Too Often Sliding Into Poverty.  “VA’s swift action to help former Army Spec. Troy Turner followed an article in The Washington Post on Sunday that detailed the financial hardship faced by Turner after his PTSD worsened and he was unable to hold a job.  Reliant upon a monthly disability check from VA, the Turner family slid into poverty, a grim reality for many returning veterans with invisible injuries such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury.” [The Washington Post, 10/20/07]

Army Survey Found Increase Rates of Alcohol Abuse Among Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. “Army researchers saw alcohol misuse rise from 13 percent among soldiers to 21 percent one year after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, underscoring the continuing stress of deployment for some troops.” [Stars and Stripes, 12/9/05]

… LEADING TO RISING RATES OF HOMELESSNESS AMONG VETERANS

New Study Found Veterans Make Up One Quarter of America’s Homeless Population. “Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday by the Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit… The Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. Data from 2005 estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.” [Associated Press, 11/8/07]

  • Homelessness Is Increasingly Affecting Younger Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. “And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.” [Associated Press, 11/8/07]

500 to 1000 Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are Homeless.  “But young warriors just back from the Mideast—estimated around 500 to 1,000—are beginning to struggle with homelessness too.”  [Newsweek, 3/21/07] 

  • Homeless Advocates Worry Number of Homeless Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Could Reach Tens of Thousands.  “The number may seem low, but homeless advocates worry that these wars will eventually produce tens of thousands of homeless vets, as the Vietnam War did.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/15/07]

…AND PROBLEMS AT HOME

Army Divorce Rates Skyrocketed For Troops Serving in Combat Zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The number of active-duty soldiers getting divorced has been rising sharply with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. The trend is severest among officers. Last year, 3,325 Army officers’ marriages ended in divorce — up 78% from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, and more than 31/2 times the number in 2000, before the Afghan operation, Army figures show. For enlisted personnel, the 7,152 divorces last year were 28% more than in 2003 and up 53% from 2000. During that time, the number of soldiers has changed little.” [USA Today, 6/8/05]

Army Survey Found Combat Service Increased Rates of Divorce, Anger and Other Family Problems. “In post-deployment reassessment data completed in July, researchers also saw soldiers with anger and aggression issues increase from 11 percent to 22 percent after deployment. Those planning to divorce their spouse rose from 9 percent to 15 percent after time spent in the combat zone. And that’s just the start of the problems, according to military family support groups. ‘At the end of the day, wounded servicemembers have wounded families,’ said Joyce Wessel Raezer, government relations director for the National Military Family Association. ‘More must be done to link servicemembers and families with the services they need and the information about PTSD and other mental health issues.’” [Stars and Stripes, 12/9/05]

Iraq War Veterans Are Increasingly Becoming Entangled in the Criminal Justice System.  “[Iraq war veteran Nicholas] Rusanoff, 25, is one of a growing number of soldiers who have returned from the war in Iraq only to become entangled in the criminal justice system at home.  Some have committed minor offenses; others are facing serious charges of domestic violence and even homicide.  Many are struggling with psychological issues as they try to adjust to civilian life.” [Inside Bay Area, 3/19/07]

RATE OF UNINSURED VETERANS IS ALSO RISING

Study Shows Number of Uninsured Veterans Spiked in First Half of Decade – Twice As Fast as Uninsured in the General Population. “The number of uninsured veterans jumped sharply in the first half of the decade to 1.8 million in 2004, a new study shows. Conducted by researchers at the Harvard Medical School, the study shows the uninsured veteran population rose twice as fast as the uninsured in the general population.” [USA Today, 10/31/07]

  • Study Found Increase in Uninsured Veterans Coincided With Bush Administration Policies Aimed at Restricting Eligibility for Veterans Care. “The increase in veterans lacking insurance coincides with Bush administration policies aimed at limiting the number of veterans eligible for VA coverage, according to the study published online Tuesday in the American Journal of Public Health. In 2002, the administration stopped marketing veterans health care and, in January 2003, cut off access to future veterans earning more than $30,000 to $35,000 annually on average. Both times, VA officials cited budgetary constraints and backlogs in untreated patients.” [USA Today, 10/31/07]

Veterans and Families Argue the VA Restricts Rehabilitation or Cuts it Off Too Quickly. “The VA takes the lead in treating wounds and paying for disabilities of veterans. And it usually does a good job of handling major, known wounds, especially in the early months, by many accounts. The military, Social Security Administration, Labor Department and other agencies add important federal benefits. However, many veterans and families say the VA often restricts rehabilitation or cuts it off too quickly.” [AP, 9/30/07]

RETURNING VETERANS ARE STRUGGLING TO FIND EMPLOYMENT

Reservists Failed to Receive Adequate Job Protection. Thousands or reservists returning from active duty face job loss, demotion, loss of benefits or loss of seniority at their civilian jobs, a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). According to the GAO, more than 16,000 reservists filed USERRA complaints between 2004 and 2006, though the GAO estimated that fewer than 30 percent of reservists who experience violations file a complaint. The GAO found that resolving complaints took on average nearly two years. Additionally, the burden of proof in such cases is on the employee not the employer, with investigators often failing to investigate further than an employer’s initial answer. [GAO, 2/07; GAO, 10/05; Washington Post, Gershkoff Op-Ed, 8/4/07]

Younger Veterans Are Struggling to Find Work At Higher Rates Than Older Veterans.  “But younger veterans face obstacles.  The unemployment rate was 10.4 percent last year for veterans aged 20-24.  Since the 90s, the unemployment rate has been somewhat higher for younger vets than for their civilian counterparts. ‘When they come off of a period of active duty service, it takes them time to find a job,’ said David Loughran, a senior economist at Rand Corporation.  ‘For some veterans, the skills that they learned in the military are not necessarily immediately transferable to a civilian job.’” [The Times of Trenton, 10/18/07]

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