Washington (CNN) - With suicide and unemployment on the rise among servicemen and servicewomen, U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli outlined steps the country can take to combat the issues.
In the two and a half years since Chiarelli became vice chair, he has seen a dramatic rise in those soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, jumping from 30 percent of the wounded population or 3,400 individuals, to 8,500 servicemen and servicewomen or 65 percent of the population.
To address the growing suicide rate among returning veterans, 156 of whom committed suicide last year, Chiarelli said more must be learned about the brain and the effects of long deployments.
“My personal opinion is we need to find a way to increase the money that's going into … these research efforts and veterans’ programs,” Chiarelli said.
He also said the country needs to help veterans “blend back into the community,” something retired Staff Sgt. Dale Beatty knows firsthand.
Beatty, a North Carolina native, was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq after he lost both his legs in a blast from an improvised explosive device that nearly destroyed his vehicle. He said the outreach he felt from his community when he returned home “really influenced the way my recovery progressed.”
“I didn’t have time to feel down for myself, especially being in the hospital, seeing people that were hurt worse than me,” Beatty said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I just knew I had to drive on for my wife and my two little kids and my family.”
Beatty now runs Purple Heart Homes, a nonprofit organization that provides housing for disabled veterans.
He is one of the many voices calling for Washington and the American people to help veterans as they re-enter society and start a new chapter in their lives.
Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the veterans of today need a “constant and consistent commitment to this generation of warriors,” which is facing education, employment and health challenges.
“If you think about Memorial Day, most Americans are going to go to the beach. We’re going to go to Arlington Cemetery,” Rieckhoff said. “So it really reveals the divide that exists between the military and our veterans’ community and the rest of the American public.”
Rieckhoff said “Washington hasn’t done enough” and issued a call to President Barack Obama, who he said can use his bully pulpit to bring down the unemployment rate among veterans.
“Ask the American public to help. Ask the American public to do something to get involved,” Rieckhoff said. “And most urgently, what we need is employment. We need jobs.”
There are 3.27 million veterans collecting VA disability and 837,000 currently unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of Veterans Affairs. Eighty-five percent of Americans polled in the most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Survey on the issue said preventing cuts in veterans’ benefits is more important than reducing the deficit.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington is one of the politicians advocating on behalf of veterans.
She has introduced two measures aimed at easing the transition of service members into civilian life. The “Hiring Heroes Act of 2011” requires job training for all service members returning home and the “Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011” gives tax credits to employers who hire veterans while easing the requirements needed to receive the credits.
Murray, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said “bureaucracy and VA always go right together,” but that when it comes to finding employment a lack of understanding about veterans’ skills and a lack of training are the biggest contributors.
She cited those individuals who have served as a medic or driven a truck for yeas in the service and then are unable to retain similar jobs upon their return.
“We, as a country, have to remember when all we scream about is deficit reduction, we’re going to leave some people behind, and I’m very worried it’s our veterans,” Murray told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.
“If we don't make sure that we help those men and women who are coming home today get a job, help with their physical and mental injuries, get through the benefits claim process, 20 years from now our country will have on its conscience a high number of veterans who we've lost because of suicide, who are homeless on the streets and who've been lost,” Murray said. “I don't want to see that happen.”
Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.
In other words, veterans need what every other American needs.
To: Candy Crowley. Please reference the American Psychological Association MONITOR, November 2010, Vol41.10 on "Veterans Who Changed Psychology." Fortunately, the General clarified the need for "behavioral health" service providers and focused research. It is the psychologists who have been doing the brain trauma research and the post traumatic stress studies. It is the psychologists who have been training counselors to work with military families. Military families know the post traumatic stress from wars has always been around. We also know that, while everyone has needs, the need of the veteran and the military family is not the same as what every other American needs. Am sure you will hear from many psychologists and hope you can speak with Dr. Norman Anderson, CEO of the APA who is in DC. AO'
watch out, companies are hoarding the money, not hiring...it is GOP nasty play and prank...wake up...
Remember when Regan cut funding for our veterans administration and all those vets ended up on the street, homeless population increased in all major cities? More veterans in mental hospitals, sicide rate went up?
I remember, so should everyone else remember.
The veteran men & women who have served years of their life in these horrible countries, over this stupid war that the Bush Administration started and never ended out of pride, better receive a job and health care before I ever do. These are stronger men and women than the average American, and therefore should take precedence over the average American should our Government EVER start giving hand-me-outs. Any of us who have never served, deserve nothing federally free.
I agree. Obama is still doing triage, But under him we will get to that more perfect union. And as a vet, I am 100% against the privatization of this country. I served in the US army and our military works best as a government run program. And, basic human rights, such as health care, should also not be run as profit-based or privatized. And as far as McCain saying Palin can win the office of president, he is barking up his own rotten tree to cover up his own rotten tracks for anointing her to run as his VP. McCain, I curse the day you did you brought her forth. Palin is a rabble-rousing joke of a human being: exclusive, hate-filled, ego-manic, money-grubbing, and stupid. A dangerous combination that should never have been allowed so close to the office of POTUS. Her self- aggrandizing ego is mind-boggling, her stupidity numbing, her arrogance is stunning, It makes me ill to think of her and her family picking out drapes.
WHERE IS THE "PATRIOTIC RELIGIOUS-RIGHT TEA PARTY" ON THIS ISSUE?
ANSWER: The "hypocritical religious-right Republicans" (backed by its Tea Party masters) are obstructing President Obama and the Democratic Party in transferring $Billions of "big-oil corporate-welfare and tax breaks" to the needs of 275,000 veterans who fight and sacrifice on the frontlines.
While FAUX News and the Hypocritical GOP continue to distract Republican supporters and Obama haters away the creators of this economic mess (i.e. Bush, Cheney, and previous GOP led-Congress); big-corporate continues to lobby right-wing public officials to do their bidding against the interest of hardworking middle-class American.
Yes, but speaking as an Army service member I think this calls for legitimate concern. The article touches on points that are reasonable enough to merit further investigation. Perhaps we should audit out processing services such as ACAP Express support offered by the Army and other services like it throughout every branch of the military. For instance, are these programs offering not only resume building assistance but also actual job referrals for skilled former military personnel?
Veterans have put their lives on the line for every one of us. They deserve our respect and support in good and in bad times. They deserve it regardless of the political winds. They deserve it always.
We all need jobs and better health care and until we vote this empty suit out of office we won't get it.
To ALL the past, present and future veterans....THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY!!!
When my husband left the Army in 1958 after 4 yrs. then reenlist another 4 yrs in the Naval Air, the first thing he did after a total of 8 yrs in the military was go to college and thanks to the military he received a BS degree from Purdue. The people today think it's an automatic transition to jobs when all they know is being part of a war machine. Go to school, get a trade and quit feeling sorry for yourselves. Millions before you managed without being cry-babies.
All Americans need these items. Jobs, give income and dignity. Health care, gives the chance for the population to age gracefully, and be more productive. But hey, the republicans have control of the congress. Common sense, has taken to a burner in the very back of the stove since the mid-term elections. If money doesn't flow to the wealthy, the republicans will never votefor it.
The republicans voted against increases for veterans benefits. Thank God the dems had the majority in the Senate and a few crossed over (Snow and Collins probably).
Bless our young men and women.
The repubs want to keep us poor so our young people have to enlist to earn a living. Vote democrat or lose your freedoms to the corporations of this country.
One issue nobody wants to talk about is the fraudulent number of veterans who draw disability payments that are not disabled whatsoever. It is now almost routine for discharged service members to draw a disability payment. They start by ensuring their active duty medical file contains an injury however minor that can be exploited to receive a monthly payment for life. As a veteran myself I consider only those who were injured during combat or are actually disabled deserve a disability payment or support for life. Visit a veterans hospital and see those with missing limbs or the severely wounded and see really deserves help. The rest are stealing from the tax payer and cheapen those who are actually disabled.