Veterans Day: Making a Smooth Transition for Veterans
by Don Cooke, Senior VP of Philanthropy
“A man who is good enough to shed blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterward.” – President Theodore Roosevelt
As we commemorate Veterans Day, it’s important that we not forget our nation's younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are experiencing new and complex challenges as they transition to civilian life. While advanced technology on the battlefield has saved many lives, it also has created a depth and breadth of physical and mental injuries never before experienced by our armed services or our nation.
- More than 300,000 Americans have returned from conflict with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a recent RAND report.
- The suicide rate among returning veterans is rising considerably. A veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes, according to a Center for a New American Security Suicide report.
- Veterans who left military service in the past decade have an unemployment rate of 11.7 percent, well above the civilian jobless rate of 9.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These issues are of national proportion, but we’re learning through our work that the solutions must be local. The Foundation believes local, public-private partnerships focused on a coordinated system of care are essential in making a smooth transition for veterans. In order to reach the large number of returning veterans, we need a collaborative and coherent network of nonprofits providing services from health to education, to jobs, to family counseling and legal issues. This network must function in concert with the public sector services.
Here in Illinois, there is strong support for this kind of collaboration. From the Governor’s office on down and throughout the business and philanthropic communities, there is an understanding that we can only solve problems by working together.
One local, coordinated effort that we were particularly honored to take part in was Governor Pat Quinn’s announcement of the newest Veterans Cash scratch-off lottery ticket. This program is one of the innovative ways the state is addressing the challenge.
Clearly, it is in our shared and best interest that we invest in the veterans’ transition from military to civilian life.
Happy Veterans Day.