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Soldiers in the military typically have a highly complicated time adjusting to a civilian lifestyle after serving their country. It is a well-known fact that military service is complicated, challenging, and hazardous. Nevertheless, returning to civilian life might be even more challenging after serving in the armed forces. Veterans are supposed to re-accustom to daily routine actions, and this process is greatly strenuous for those people who have merely been preoccupied with other accountabilities. If a civilian that works at a desk most of their life has issues getting back into a routine after having the flu for a week, one can only imagine how a soldier returning from a war zone can feel trying to become accustomed to society once again. When a soldier has decided to leave the military or their contract expires, many modifications need to be made to live a comfortable civilian lifestyle. Two of the most prominent issues that these soldiers will face when returning to society include psychological and social dilemmas. The life of a veteran becomes completely different after returning home from military service, which leads to numerous personal, physical, and mental difficulties including PTSD issues, relationship problems, unemployment, homelessness, and war wounds. Therefore, veterans need appropriate external help in form of policies and programs, which will assist them in readjusting to civil lifestyle.
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PTSD and War Wounds
In the period between 2001 and 2015, more than 1,450 U.S. service members suffered from the partial or full amputation of a limb because of traumas sustained while combating in war zones (Nickerson & Goldstein, 2015). These wounds might become a reason for additional stress because of possible unemployment and fear of homelessness. The facts demonstrate that a shocking 45 percent of veterans from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seek compensation for service-related disabilities (Nickerson & Goldstein, 2015). The main health conditions stand for musculoskeletal injuries and ache, chemical exposure, infectious diseases, noise and vibration exposure, traumatic brain injury, etc. Most importantly, they suffer from mental issues.
Numerous veterans returning home from military service have to readjust to life out of military service and have to cope with symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Veterans might feel as if they are on the brick of rupturing, stiffened and detached, or on the edge of exploding or panicking (Nickerson & Goldstein, 2015). The statistics show that at least one in eight returning veterans suffers from PTSD. PTSD can be defined as an anxiety disorder, which can appear after the veteran sustains a distressing occurrence. In this case, the veteran assumes that his/her life or others’ lives are in danger (Price, Bush, & Price, 2015). They might feel afraid or feel that they have no control over events, which are occurring. Thus, any veteran who has gone through a life-threatening or life-hazardous event can develop PTSD. These events might incorporate military exposure, combat, or severe trauma. The nervous system has two involuntary or converse methods of reacting to stressful situations. The first method stands for mobilization, which appears when an individual has to defend oneself to survive the hazards and dangers of a combat situation. It stimulates the heart to pound faster leading to an increase in blood pressure while the muscles tighten increasing strength and reaction speed (Paulson & Kripper, 2010). When the danger passes, the nervous system conciliates and restrains the body decreasing the heart rate and blood pressure, which means that every body system returns to a standard balance. The second method is immobilization, which appears when an individual experiences an immense level of stress, and even though the danger has passed, the person is literally stuck in a misbalanced physical and emotional state. The nervous system is incapable of returning to its standard balance state meaning that the individual cannot move on from the event (Paulson & Kripper, 2010). This state stands for PTSD.
Although some veterans might experience PTSD symptoms in hours or days after a traumatic event, there are examples when symptoms do not appear for months or even years after a veteran returns from deployment. In fact, there are four symptom clusters. The first one presents recurrent, invasive remembrances of the traumatic event encompassing anxious thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks (Nickerson & Goldstein, 2015). Also, there might be triggers meaning sight or a sound, which provoke a veteran to relive the event. Hence, triggers typically incorporate hearing a car backfire, which might bring back memories of gunfire and war for a combat veteran; observing a car accident, which might remind a crash survivor; reading a news report of a sexual assault, which might bring back memories of assaults for women who were raped (Price, Bush, & Price, 2015). Thus, a veteran experiences exceptional physical and emotional reactions to trauma reminders including panic attacks, unmanageable concussion, and heart palpitations. The second symptom concerns the ultimate delusion of things, which reminds us of the traumatic event encompassing places, places, thoughts, or situations that are associated with painful memories (Nickerson & Goldstein, 2015). Hence, a veteran might withdraw from family and friends and lose interest in everyday activities. The third symptom relates to negative alterations in mood and thoughts encompassing inflated negative assumptions about oneself or the world and constant/continuous feelings of dread, shame, or guilt (Nickerson & Goldstein, 2015). This leads to a depressed capability of experiencing positive emotions. The fourth symptom is the fact that a veteran is always on guard appearing to be nervous and emotionally reactive (Nickerson & Goldstein, 2015). This state is vividly expressed through irascibility, anger, reckless conduct, sleeping issues, concentrating troubles, and hyper-vigilance or hyper-arousal. Veterans suffering from PTSD might have other issues including alcohol or drug abuse, physical symptoms, relationship issues encompassing violence or divorce, and employment issues.
Department of Veterans Affairs provides treatment to all veterans regardless of their location. Veterans Affairs has numerous medical centers, all of which have PTSD specialists who equip treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD, and there are approximately 200 medication programs. Each of these programs provides education, evaluation, and treatment encompassing face-to-face mental health evaluation and testing, treatment, psychotherapy and family therapy, and group therapies, which cover anger and stress issues and combat support (Paulson & Kripper, 2010). Hence, Veterans Affairs provides outpatient PTSD programs, Day Hospital PTSD programs, and Inpatient PTSD programs. The last is the most important and can last for as long as 90 days equipping trauma-concentrated evaluation, education, and psychotherapy, which might be combined with substance abuse issues dealing in a form of counseling for substance use problems (Paulson & Kripper, 2010). Also, Veterans Affairs has issued numerous directives, policies, guidelines, and handbooks on mental health programs and services connected to PTSD; all of these are necessary constituents for ensuring that all veterans obtain equitable care throughout the Veterans Affairs health care system. This allows establishing a continuous procedure for an incessant treatment for veterans starting from screening and ending with rehabilitation.
The consequence of military service during wartime are felt long after a veteran returns home and negatively impact the family in general and a service member in particular. Even when veterans are not at war, military families frequently have to deal with such stresses as permanent moves or the absence of a parent. In this way, war deployment leads to additional family problems for veterans. Thus, issues of career disruption, fiscal hardships, physical disabilities, prolonged separation, and PTSD all affect families.
Military culture has a solid impact on veterans’ families. The core of the military culture in the U.S. stands for the collectivist value system, which specifically distinguishes the military from the civilian culture. In fact, the collective concentration on the requirements and needs of the group, organizational cohesion, and the primacy of the group objective contrasts essentially with the perspective of the individual achievements of the civilian culture. Hence, the mission is of primary significance in the military (Gomulka, 2010). It practically means that the mission and camaraderie of the forces take precedence over all else encompassing family. More importantly, such phrases and expressions as a distracted soldier is a dead soldier reveal the significance of a sole concentration on the mission and the necessity of excluding everything else (Warchal et al., 2011). On the one hand, it helps save lives. On the other disruption for family members who desire a family to be service members’ priority.
It is also important to note that military life requires extended separations, which negatively influences a veteran’s spouse and children. Unfaithfulness, the fear of adultery, and loss of relationship worsens deployment anxiety and restlessness. The divorce rate for soldiers and marines was at a 16 year high in 2008, with 1,000 more divorces among enlisted Soldiers in 2008 than in 2007, and male combat veterans were 62% more likely to have at least one failed marriage (Gomulka, 2010, p. 112). It is also important to mention that statistical data does not account for divorces, which appear one or two years after the return to civilian life; thus, these figures cannot be absolutely accurate (Warchal et al., 2011). The period of 1-2 years after returning is the hardest as readjustment to civilian life is the most complicated at this point.
Family distress statistics are also depressing. The facts demonstrate that seventy percent of couples where one spouse has been diagnosed with PTSD report marital distress. Veterans suffering from PTSD are more probable to be divorced or to consider divorce, become engaged in partner violence, and relate childrearing issues. Also, polytraumatic injuries encompassing intensive medication of both psychological and physical states make the transition from active duty to veteran much more complicated. Hence, veterans accustomed to the adrenaline rush of active duty frequently deal with boredom by involving themselves in hazardous conduct and alcohol/drug abuse.
Veteran families suffer even when there are no injuries, either physical or psychological. Relationship problems are the main issues, which concern veterans after deployment. Family members become isolated (Warchal et al., 2011). Children frequently reveal behavioral and emotional issues as their parents are deployed and have to deal with the psychological costs of combat traumas after the veteran’s return (Warchal et al., 2011). Even when a veteran returns home, the well-known phenomenon of survival guilt affects him/her by shame and grief. In fact, the current technological world, with its availability of all possible means of communication, starting with social media and ending with Skype, allows veterans to remain emotionally attached to their units, is actually engaged in combat on the battlefield even not being physically present there (Warchal et al., 2011). Survivor guilt, which is associated with PTSD, is featured by the fact that veterans feel shame and guilt because of being alive while their fellow soldiers had died.
Nonetheless, families are a significant agent for the veteran’s adjustment to civilian life. Families can be both the source of stress and strength. Therefore, preventative therapy or families before veterans return might assist in creating a home setting, which is conducive for the promotion of veterans’ well-being. It is necessary to assist families in understanding the potential problems, which might arise, as this will help in liquidating some of the stress connected to the imminent approaching alteration concerning homeostasis. Besides, preventative therapy regarding explanations of what a veteran might anticipate from his/her family after returning to civilian lifestyle might be beneficial as well. Thus, it is necessary to address the requirements and needs of both a veteran and a family to stimulate a comeback to a robust functioning family after the deployment stress and separation.
Unemployment of Veterans
Career disruption and fiscal issues complicate the return to civilian life. Currently, the veteran unemployment level is the lowest comparing to the previous seven years. Nevertheless, the unemployment level is high in contrast to other fields. This is explained by poor health, skills and capacities mismatch, employer discrimination, or job search (Loughran, 2014). In fact, only job search implies the short-range unemployment period for veterans, especially those who are newly separated from the military. Even though they might be more probable in contrast to non-veteran fellows to be in distress because of a trauma, which negatively influences capability to work, the facts do not support this as a reason for an elevated level of unemployment (Loughran, 2014). The statistics reveal that veterans are no more likely than non-veteran peers to have visible and noticeable features, which would result in obstruction or entanglement of finding a civilian occupation (Loughran, 2014). In fact, skills and capacities mismatch might be present during the transition process to the civilian labor market, but it can be easily overcome with the help of proper training and education. The facts vividly demonstrate some employers tend to discriminate against veterans, but this factor does not play the main role in veterans’ employment consequences (Loughran, 2014). The level of unemployment can be simply explained by the fact that being newly separated from military jobs, veterans will unavoidably be unemployed for some period as they are in the process of searching for a suitable new occuppation, to deal with veterans’ unemployment, policymakers must concentrate on programs and policies facilitating effective and efficient job search.
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Homelessness has always been present in the U.S., but the last decades made this issue visible. The quantity and visibility of homeless individuals elevated in the 1970s and 1980s (Price, Bush, & Price, 2015). The major reasons for this elevation incorporate the wrecking of one-room lease accommodations in alleged skid rows, in which vagabond single males resided, the lowered accessibility of dispensable housing, the decreased requirement for seasonal unskilled labor, the lowered possibility that relatives will house homeless family members, etc. (Connel & Sher, 2012). The increased visibility of homeless persons, especially veterans, was caused by the decriminalization of actions including public drunkenness, lingering, and vagrancy. Homeless veterans typically belong to the third type of homelessness as they are chronically homeless individuals and they are homeless incessantly for a period of one year or have at minimum four episodes of homelessness within the period of three years (Connel & Sher, 2012). This type of homeless people frequently suffers from mental diseases and/or substance use disorders (Connel & Sher, 2012). The overrepresentation of veterans in the homelessness population can also be explained by the fact that there is a solid connection between the hazard of becoming homeless and the pay grade as the lower is the pay grade, the higher is the risk. Secondly, the length of the active duty service has also a solid impact on homelessness level as those who were in the National Guard or reserves are less likely to become homeless (Connel & Sher, 2012). Thirdly, traumatic brain injury also elevated the hazard of becoming homeless (Connel & Sher, 2012). Fourthly, psychotic, mood, anxiety, and adjustment disorders, PTSD, and substance usage elevated the hazard of becoming homeless for all veteran categories (Connel & Sher, 2012). Homeless veterans became visible only when news reports and accounts documented the position of veterans who had served their country but had to live and die on the streets. Thus, the prevalent belief that the military experience equips young people with job training, educational and other benefits, as well as the maturity required for a productive life conflicted with the presence of veterans among the homeless population.
To ensure that veterans suffering from homelessness have the ability to move to permanent housing with the appropriate service level, it is important to shift to the Housing First system orientation. The Veterans Affairs Department is responsible for creating and/or funding programs, which serve homeless veterans. The major part of these is operated via VHA (Veteran Health Administration), which is accountable for administering healthcare programs. Also, VBA (Veterans Benefits Administration) is responsible for pensions and compensations, home loan guarantees, education help, and insurance.
Returning to civilian life might be very a complicated process. Veterans return home with inner and outer traumas, which should be treated and medicated properly to facilitate the readjustment process. They might suffer from musculoskeletal injuries and ache, chemical exposure, infectious diseases, noise and vibration exposure, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, etc. Their inability to readjust might make them unemployed and ultimately homeless. People who had served their country should not be left alone with their anxiety, fears, and problems to live and die on the streets. This is the main reason why it is necessary to provide some programs, which will aid men and women who have returned from combat. Caring for soldiers is much different from caring for the average person. Thus, it is important to be sensitive to their needs and requirements.