JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Anyone who knows a military veteran has likely seen the difficulties many veterans face when transitioning from military life to a civilian career.
According to experts at the Wounded Warrior Project, those challenges are particularly difficult for veterans thrust out of their military careers by injury or illness.
New data from WWP's ninth-Annual Warrior Survey shows some conditions are improving for veterans, including employment rate, education and homeownership rates.
In the past five years, the unemployment rate for warriors not on active duty dramatically improved, the WWP found. In 2014, nearly 1 in 5 post-9/11 veterans served by the WWP could not find work. Since then, the unemployment rate has dropped 40 percent for injured veterans, with only 12 percent now unable to find work.
Other improvements over the last five years, based on 33,067 completed surveys, include:
- Now, 71 percent of veterans use the Department of Veterans Affairs to address mental health concerns, while 63 percent did in 2014.
- Now, 36 percent have a bachelor’s degree or better, while 25 percent did in 2014.
- Now, 60 percent of warriors own a home, while 46 percent did in 2014.
But the men and women served by the WWP still face challenges, the organization said.
Nearly 4 in 5 veterans (78 percent) live with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the WWP found. That number is holding fairly steady over the last five years, as 75 percent reported PTSD symptoms in 2014.
Other continuing challenges, based on survey responses, are:
- Now, 52 percent of warriors are considered obese, based on body mass index, while 43 percent were in 2014.
- Now, 73 percent reported pain interfered with normal work outside and inside their home, while 62 percent did in 2014.
Lisa Crutch says WWP may have saved her life following the injuries she suffered a decade ago in Iraq.
"I didn't think anything was wrong with me, and there was a whole lot wrong with me," Crutch told News4Jax.
The Army sergeant says she was wounded in a collision during a mission, suffering a traumatic brain injury and other physical damage. She was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Her homecoming came with a struggle many veterans face.
"I was more comfortable in Iraq with my gear, with my weapons, with my soldiers, doing my job," Crutch said. "When it was time to come home. I was ecstatic to see my family. Of course I wanted to come home. But not knowing when I got here, it didn't feel like home to me."
One of the WWP's missions is to help warriors find the right career through interview coaching and networking with potential employers.
“The most challenging aspect of transitioning to civilian life is finding the right fit of dignifying work,” one warrior responded in the survey.
Another said, “I am currently unable to find fulfilling work in my desired career field. The resume and hiring process is the most challenging part of the transition.”
The WWP helps veterans translate their military experience into corresponding skills on a civilian resume and also works with companies to share how valuable warriors are in the workforce.
More details from the survey can be found at woundedwarriorproject.org/survey.
To support the WWP's efforts to aid veterans in their transition, go to wwp.news/Donate.