Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, April 21, 2018

It’s time to treat our heroes like heroes

Giving back to our veterans shouldn’t be this hard

It’s time to treat our heroes like heroes

Every day we walk to our jobs, we go to classes, we chat with friends. We do what college kids do without having fear of an incoming attack or being senselessly bombed by other governments. Very few people stop to realize just how important our armed forces are to this country. Giving back to veterans and making sure they have what they need to succeed when they return to civilian life should be a top priority not only for the government, but for every U.S. citizen. 

Out of the entire homeless population, nearly 10% are veterans. Furthermore, veterans are statistically more likely to be homeless than civilians. This is absolutely atrocious. The men and women who have fought and died for this country so we continue to live in peace and freedom deserve better treatment. While deployed, many of these men and women have lost brothers in arms and have seen unspeakable horrors. Fear of homelessness should be the last of their worries.

Of the many factors that play into why veterans comprise such a large portion of the homeless population, one of the most pervasive is the difficulty in adjusting to civilian life from being on active duty, often due to mental illness. Frequently, mental illness from PTSD increases the difficulty for veterans to hold down a job, let alone a mortgage for a house. In addition, the age in which many veterans go on active duty is during the prime time in which they would train for a job or go to school.

The government must start giving veterans better benefits. These benefits should include free job training, guarantee of a loan if it is needed and free college education. Offering certain tax deductions to corporations willing to hire veterans is a way that the government can continue to play a part in helping veterans transition back to civilian life. Although some of these measures are already in place, the statistics speak for themselves. These programs must be improved upon and reinvigorated.

We are not doing a good enough job helping out the heroes of this great nation. Over the last couple of years, we have heard of horror stories about the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA. We’ve heard everything from soldiers being forced to wait so long to receive treatment that they’ve passed away, to trouble finding the proper mental health professionals. These atrocities need to be fixed immediately.

The fact that one veteran commits suicide about every 65 minutes should be enough of a reason to want to see change in how we treat our veterans. How can we as a nation watch such a steep increase in suicide rates from people who fought and bled for our country? While mental health is an issue for the entire nation, it is prevalent in the veteran community due to the stigma behind mental illness. We must stop treating mental health concerns as disabilities and instead treat them like illnesses. With over 20 percent of the veterans coming home from war having some form of PTSD, only 40 percent receive the help that they need. We must commit to ensuring that these brave men and women are getting the resources that they need and deserve.

A lot of these changes will not happen overnight. However, there are ways we can speed up the process. Local and federal representatives need to know that this is an issue that we care about. Nothing will change unless they know that in order to get our vote, they need to help out those who protect this country.

Encourage the federal government to take steps toward improving veterans’ lives. First, they should expand the mental health program that exists currently within the VA and treat it as an illness. Second, they should continue working to increase the efficiency of the medical program and insurance programs within the VA. Lastly, the government needs to expand the programs which help veterans get back into the workforce, including job training, tax benefits for companies who hire veterans and tuition-free education.

None of this will happen if we, the educated and voting members of society, don’t make it abundantly clear to our representatives in Congress that this is an important issue that needs their attention. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist or belong to any other political party, there is one thing that every sane and proud American should agree on: our veterans deserve our help.

Alex Zipper is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs.

azipper@theeagleonline.com


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