What obstacles do veterans face in transition from military to civilian life?
As of 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there are 19 million veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces — men and women, ranging from age 18 to more than 100 years old, who served in conflicts from World War II to the War on Terror.
No veteran is the same, but they do often face similar challenges when transitioning back to civilian life.
Many find it difficult to adjust after leaving the military, can struggle with a sense of purpose and identity, and face issues such as unemployment, housing insecurity, and poor mental and physical health.
- On a single night in January 2020, there were at least 37,252 U.S. veterans experiencing homelessness, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
- From 2017-2019, about 1.2 million veterans lived in households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Texas had the country’s second largest number of SNAP-participating veterans at 94,000.
- There were an average of 17.6 veteran suicides per day in 2018, per a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair.
Without adequate support and access to the necessary services and resources, the obstacles veterans encounter can derail a successful reintegration and have debilitating effects on their overall well-being.
What can we learn from veterans' personal stories of tragedy, triumph and transition? What are the most common readjustment issues and needs? What stigmas can they experience when seeking help?
What do we know about who has served in the military and how this population is changing? Has the increased diversity of troops created new kinds of needs among veterans?
How can loved ones and community members support service members during and after their return to civilian life? What resources and services are available for San Antonio-area veterans?
- Tim Kolczack, U.S. Army combat veteran who served in Iraq, photographer and founder of The Veterans Project and The Caregiving Project
- Ben Miranda, retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant who served in Operation Enduring Freedom, director of operational impact & outreach for San Antonio-based national service organization Endeavorsand a member of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's Texas Military Preparedness Commission
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, November 11.