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How Veterans Can Get the Help They Need


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Strategies and Secrets for Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life -

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How Veterans Can Get the Help They Need

  1. 1. ==== ====For more strategies, secrets and tips for transitioning from military to civilian life, visit ====Veterans Day is a day to thank and honor both dead and alive United States Veterans, unlikeMemorial Day where Americans honor only those soldiers who died as a result of injuries incurredduring battle. Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and was considered a legalholiday on November 11, 1918. It was a day to honor the end of World War I and in 1938legislation was passed dedicating the date 11-11 as the cause of world peace. In 1954 PresidentEisenhower signed a bill proclaiming that 11-11 would no longer be called Armistice Day. Fromthat day forward, it would be known as Veterans Day.Fifty-seven years later, on 11-11-11 Americans will gather across the country to honor Veterans ofWars. At exactly 11:00 am, a color guard from each branch of the military will honor the war deadwith a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns (Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) inArlington National Cemetery.Factors that Complicate What Veterans ExperienceYou may have received hostile fire, blasts, personal injury, feared your own personal safety,witnessed combat casualties, and lived day-to-day in severe conditions, or experienced militarysexual harassment and trauma. You may be currently facing losses such as homelessness andunemployment.Military factors that may complicate your experience include training accidents and combat injuriesresulting in death, lengthy process of recovering and transporting your friends body home beforeburial, limitation in viewing the remains due to the injuries, the young age of the soldier as nearlyone-third of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were between the ages of 18 and 21. Now that you havereturned home, you may have to deal with unwanted media attention, civilian reactions to militarydeath and vindictive political protesters at the funeral.As a Veteran, you are faced with several issues including a long wait for doctors appointments,driving several hours to see a mental health specialist, your spouse wanting to separate ordivorce, loss of employment or lack of adequate employment, and negative stereotypes ofmilitary/veterans in the movies. Many Veterans feel out of control when eating. They havehaunting images due to military trauma and need alcohol and/or drugs to get through their day.You may feel worried, anxious, irritable, frustrated and preoccupied with rage.Some Veterans take prescription medication without medical supervision and think about killingthemselves. Too many Veterans experience hopeless, rage, and withdraw from friends, family,and their community and have no sense of purpose in life. The VAs suicide hotline receivesapproximately 10,000 calls per month. There are 950 suicide attempts per month by veteransreceiving care from the VA and eighteen Veterans die by suicide each day. Five of them are under
  2. 2. the care of the VA.What Veterans Go ThroughVeterans are dealing with Prolonged Grief Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder andTraumatic Brain Injuries. They may experience unwanted memories, volatile behavior, poor sleep,suspicion, withdrawal, and have higher rates of drug and alcohol disorders. Physical reactionsinclude chronic pain; digestive disturbances, Gulf War Illness, and respiratory disease. Physicaldisabilities include amputation and spinal cord injuries. Emotional reactions include feeling empty,furious, guilty, overwhelmed, and sadness. Cognitive reactions are forgetfulness, blame,confusion, flashbacks and self-doubt. Behavioral reactions are feeling detached fromsurroundings, intolerant, mistrust, refusing to talk and sleep disturbances. Spiritual reactions areabandoned faith, apathetic about the future, feeling forsaken, hopeless and loss of purpose.Why Veterans Dont Get HelpAlthough what youre going through may be similar to what others are going through, manyVeterans refuse to seek out help as they fear it will only make matters worse. They feel stigmaregarding how they will be perceived and feel shame that prevents them from seeking help. SomeVeterans dont have the time to get help due to responsibilities or dont have the energy due tooverwhelming grief, depression, and stress. Veterans may distrust professional helpers based onpast contact or culture or have family members who do not approve of seeking support outside ofthe family.Good News for VeteransIts no secret that Veterans have bottled up their feelings. I recently presented a program forVeterans and asked them about those feelings. They noted three top issues: 1. Trust; 2.Insecurity; and 3. Fear. I asked them if they could prepare soldiers returning home for thechallenges they can expect, what would they tell them. Twenty of the top responses were:You can make it!Take a vacation.Your family needs you.Get computer literate.Get all of your medical records.Know that you have benefits.You will receive a lot of praise.Get counseling and seek therapy.Ask for help with financial planning.Be a part of your faith community.Always be ready for the unknown.Some problems do not arise right away.Learn what you can about the GI Bill.Everything is going to appear uncertain.It will be hard to find a routine, but get one.Drinking is not going to solve your problems.Find something to live for and dont kill yourself.
  3. 3. Know what is most difficult to deal with and talk about it.You are not going to experience any problems that other Veterans havent.Get in a group at your VA as being with other Veterans will keep you going.There is a VA credo that I particularly like, "It takes the courage and strength of a warrior to ask forhelp." The first strategy for improving your heath is to know your mental health providers.Psychiatrists can offer individual therapy or psychologists who can offer group, marital, and familycounseling. Reach out to social workers to help you with your medical and benefit referrals andemployment counseling. Counselors can assist you with bereavement counseling. Your PrimaryMental Health Provider is your main contact and will coordinate your mental health treatment plan.Speak to your VA Medical Center physician who cares not only about your physical health but alsoyour mental health.Veterans can gain strength from both affirmation and acronyms. I have listed both and hope theyhelp!A Veterans AffirmationThe following affirmation can help you find meaning in your experience and build resiliency in yourlife: "I am a Veteran. I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to do. I have control over the thingsthat happen to me. I will keep a positive attitude. I am able to maintain my boundaries. I amconfident about my role in life. I can change some of the issues I am facing. I am optimistic. Whatoccurs in my future is generally up to me. I feel connected with others. I am a Veteran."An Acronym for VETERANSAn acronym is when you take the letters of a word and create a meaningful phrase with each ofthose letters. The key point about the acronym, VETERANS, is that it will describe ways to remainresilient:Value what you have learned about the strength within yourself.Echo a word, phrase, and credo that brings you comfort.True significance of sharing your story is found when you find meaning in it.Educate yourself about self-compassion and stress management.Re-evaluate who you are and what you have learned from serving your country.Adapt and find positive growth from being in the military.New normal acceptance begins with getting out of your own way.Spiritually remain connected to those that have died while serving their country.Additional Help for Veterans
  4. 4. There are many organizations that can provide help for Veterans such as The American Legion,American Veterans, Black Veterans for Social Justice, Coming Home Project (for vets andfamilies), Dept. of Health and Human Services Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK,Veterans press 1., Dept. of VA Homeless Veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs (caregiverssupport), Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), Coping withMilitary Sexual Trauma, National Association for Uniformed Services, National Coalition forHomeless Veterans, National Military Family Association, National Organization of VeteransAdvocates, Salute, Inc. (financial support and assistance), Service Womens Action Network, U.S.Vets Inc. (homeless vets), VeteranCaregiver.Com: Virtual Community for those who care,Veteransacross America (access to business and employment), Veterans for Common Sense, andVeterans Upward Bound (college preparation programs).Personally, I want to wish every Veteran a happy Veterans Day!Support our Troops AND Support Our VeteransBoth of Barbaras parents served in the armed forces.Author: Barbara Rubel, BS, MA, BCETS, CBC, Keynote speaker and trainer, author, But I DidntSay Goodbye, website Source: ====For more strategies, secrets and tips for transitioning from military to civilian life, visit ====