veterans leaving the military. Specifically, it will attempt to solve some of the problems veterans being discharged from the military are facing. Veterans returning from the war in Iraq face a variety of problems and issues, and many of them are not being addressed by the military. Health care is one vital problem, many veterans coming home find that if they need health care, the Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals are so crowded they cannot receive treatment for weeks or even months. However, probably the biggest problem facing returning vets is readjusting to civilian life, and all that entails, from dealing with family and friends to the stresses of their jobs. Many returning vets will not admit they may need mental health counseling, and if they do admit it, they may not be able to find it. The problems of returning veterans are many, and until we learn how to solve them, we are doing the veterans that fight for our country a great and lasting disservice.
Many of the veterans returning from fighting the war in Iraq are discovering that they survived the war, but have only begun the battle. Some come home to find their jobs gone, even though there are government regulations that attempt to combat this. They find their families are different, the community is different, and they themselves are different. One returning vet wrote of his adjustment after coming home, and the difficulties it caused his entire family. On Christmas morning he yelled at his wife, "Great,' I shouted. 'How's this for shit. I hate this house. I hate this neighborhood. I hate this marriage. And I'm beginning to hate you'" (Anonymous, 2004). Sadly, this is not a rare occurrence, but a common one in many returning veterans who are discharged. They no longer know how to live outside the military, and some of the community ostracizes them because they fought in an unpopular war. How do we solve the problems of these returning military personnel, many of whom left to fight as heroes, and now return home as fallen angels in many people's eyes?
Solving the problems of discharged veterans is not a simple task, as many veterans' organizations are discovering. The government's Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) recognizes there are many problems with returning veterans, and even has information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on its Web site. Many veterans cannot admit they have a problem. The returning vet who shouted at his wife on Christmas day says, "I know what I should have done. I should have turned around, and gone back to the house. I should have gone in, embraced her, and apologized. This was the beautiful woman I promised to love and cherish, and I was shitting all over that. 'Fuck it,' I decided. 'I'm right. She's wrong'" (Anonymous, 2004). He finally did admit he needed help, but then, he could not find it. He states, "The next morning I called the VA. The waiting list for counseling was months long. I have kept civilian insurance from my wife's company so I called them. I wasn't covered. I was still eligible for TRICARE (military HMO) benefits so I called them. They told me to call the VA" (Anonymous, 2004). This is one of the major problems with returning veterans, the benefits they so desperately need are unavailable to them.
The Federal Government expects soldiers in the military to fight and even die for their country, but they do not support them when they return home. This is wrong. If there is not enough money and personnel to take care of these veterans, then Congress should appropriate more, and make sure it is spent on the returning veterans. If the country does not take care of veterans once they return home, what is the incentive to join the armed forces? If the families of returning veterans are adversely affected, what is their incentive for supporting their loved one when they go off to fight a war? America and American government needs to take a long look at what they expect from their veterans, and what they give in return. Veterans should not have to face problems like this when they return home. Certainly, reentering society after fighting in a war is difficult. Even the DVA and other agencies admit that. One article notes, "Soldiers reconnecting with family are coming from profound emotional experiences,' Chin said. 'The spouses also had these experiences, dealing with day-to-day issues by themselves, taking care of the children and gaining independence,' Chin said" ("Readjustment," 2002). The anonymous writer discussing his own experience also notes, "I went back home, and my wife and I started going to counseling. It turns out that we were both suffering from post-traumatic stress. Her company had been having lay-offs, she had been running the household completely on her own, and she had been gripped by fear the entire time I was in Iraq" (Anonymous, 2004). Therefore, counseling should be available to family members even before their loved one returns. If the VA is so backed up that they do not have the manpower or the space to conduct counseling, then it should be provided on local military bases, and in the communities, especially communities that have a large military population. The DVA does make information for returnees and their families available on their Web site, but soldier have to know it is available, and choose to seek help for them to find it. The anonymous writer notes that when he came home, he literally landed at a local airport, got in his truck, and drove home, alone. There was no information given to him about how to cope with his return, and he was literally left to fend for himself. This is not the way to treat returning veterans, and not what this country should be known for. Veterans need help and understanding after they return just as much as they needed training and equipment during their deployment, and the government should not just turn them loose without any tools or consideration. There should be materials on deployment and readjustment given to every solider who leaves the service, and they should have viable information on recognizing the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other forms of mental illness and stress that may occur when they return. The military maintains a large group of recruiters who expend much time and energy recruiting young people to join the armed forces. They should have just as many people available to work with soldiers when they return home as veterans, and it should be a top priority of the military and the Federal Government.
In addition to mental problems facing veterans when they return, there are many other problems they have to deal with. Some veterans who were in the National Guard, may have lost their jobs as a result of their long deployment. While the government has banned this practice by employers, it is still happening, and many veterans face the additional stress of not having employment when they return home. As if that were not enough, some returning veterans, deployed for long periods of time in the National Guard, do not receive the same rate of pay as they did as civilians, and so, their families face severe economic difficulties, and some have even lost homes and possessions. To solve these problems, the military needs to ensure that deployment of National Guardsmen and women will not cause financial hardships and loss of job or income. Instead of relying on deployment of National Guard troops in large-scale military operations, the military should impose a voluntary draft to recruit more soldiers before they deploy National Guard units, and the Guard units should be used for deployment at home, not abroad or in warfare situations such…