As a daughter of a Veteran, I have seen first hand the difficulty of the transition back to civilian life. Luckily, times have changed since I was a girl, and technology has advanced; as has our treatment of veterans and their loved ones. There are advancements in therapy, amputee support and mobility as well as community integration.
Soldiers returning from active duty present a unique set of behaviors which require some sort of therapy. Whether it is dealing with post traumatic stress related disorders, or depression. The goal is to acclimate soldiers back into civilian life so that they can be both successful and productive members of society. The VA now offers several technology based therapies including Virtual Reality. Veterans undergoing this treatment are exposed to combat situations with the guidance of a therapist. They talk through their emotions in real time and help cope with PTSD symptoms. Through the process of exposing the veteran, and having the veteran talk about his experiences, robs the memory of its power; lessening the symptoms of PTSD. Additionally, there are great apps, like PTSD coach (which is unofficially approved by the VA and designed by the National Center for PTSD) that helps track symptoms, provides stress handling tools and can immediately link its user to a real human for help. Providing soldiers mental support during their transition back to civilian life and during their civilian life is essential to preventing acts of self harm or aggression in Veterans.
Amputation Support and Mobility
2016 was the first year that there was not a single combat amputation since the beginning of the Iraqi war. The US Department of Veteran Affairs states that 6% of service members who are wounded in Iraq will end up with an amputation. With advancements in technology and robotic prosthetics, 250 members were allowed back to active duty and 50 were able to deploy again. Gone are the days of a hook or a wooden hand, now with prosthetics like the LUKE upper arm prosthetic, which is both sensitive to touch and pressure and is the first FDA approved fully robotic prosthetic, veterans are finding their new normal after amputation. 3D printed amphibious fins are permitting amputees to swim competitively again. These advances have allowed Veterans to continue doing the activities they love after amputation. With the invictus games ongoing there is a renewed spotlight on the amputee community and the advances this year has brought.
There are now great programs to get soldiers involved in their communities and adjust back to civilian life. There are companies which give veterans preferred hiring status, or who give a certain number of jobs to veterans each year. The GI bill provides soldiers with after duty educational opportunities and/or vocational training. There are community groups (both online and in person) solely for veterans and their families, providing activities and support otherwise. The VA has recently launched a more aggressive program to relieve homeless veterans and offer them means to shelter, rehabilitation and vocation.
The goal of citizens of the United States should be to care for and support all of our veterans, when they first come home and throughout their lives. It is our responsibility, as humans and as Americans. When we do not provide support to our returned troops there is a rise in homelessness, suicide, drug abuse and joblessness among troops. We can prevent this, we are preventing this, providing a future for us and for our troops.