Dear Mr. or Madam President:
My brother served in our military for ten years. He was deployed to Afghanistan twice and every time he came home, he returned as a different person. He suffered from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for a very long time. Before he was deployed, he was assured he would get the help he needed as far as mental coping. Challenges came when trying to interact with his family, getting a job, and learning the civilian lifestyle all over again. While he did eventually receive this help after he got out of the service, it took what seemed like forever for it to actually happen. Not only did my brother suffer far longer than needed, but so have thousands of other veterans today in our country.
Before soldiers are sent off in their deployment, they are guaranteed help for when they get back. By help, I mean with recovering from what they went through wherever they were. They're pointed towards the VA (Veterans Affairs Department). This is where they make their claims for disability and basically ask for aid in anything they can get, but most people get next to nothing in return and are forced to wait even years for it. Statistics from a 2012 survey done by the Center for Investigative Reporting showed that on average it took 277 days for the VA to evaluate a veteran's claim.
There are plenty of programs for disabled vets such as the Wounded Warrior Project. As of late January of 2016, there were more than 84,000 soldiers registered in the project according to the official website for the Wounded Warrior Project. Approximately 18,000 warriors have been helped through the physical health and wellness programs and 98.1% of the soldiers that went through project Odyssey, a program to help support the mind, say that they will continue to get the help they need mentally because of Odyssey. The WWP runs on donations to help disabled vets and their families by helping care for the mind and body, and there are plenty of counsellors in our country, but the promises that are made to men and women for help aren't always kept.
The government makes all these promises to help their military when they return home, but more often than not, veterans are left to fend for themselves since they can't get what they need from the VA. People are forced to wait around for someone to tell them that they're going to get the help they were promised. Sometimes the waiting is too much and we have a bunch of depressed and even suicidal veterans.
According to a national survey posted on the website for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, three in five people are more likely to suffer from depression if they have experience with post traumatic stress disorder. Most veterans are being dragged down with depression because they are living with PTSD. People feel that if the PTSD can be treated, then the depression can be too. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that makes you focus on your negative thoughts and turning them around into something positive to help make yourself believe the more uplifting emotions. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs' website, "CBT can help patients change negative styles of thinking and acting that can lead to both depression and PTSD." Healing the mind of someone who experienced something so traumatic like going to war, I believe, is the first step to making them healthier as a whole and as a result, have happier lives.
If the government can't follow through with what they say, why make the promises? And if the government does follow through, why wait until it's almost too late?
Mr or Madam president, the number of suicidal and depressed veterans in this country is staggering. According to a RAND Corporation survey, at least 20% of the soldiers who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD and/or depression. I find it hard to believe that it isn't higher than that. If something isn't done about the unnatural waiting time and hardly kept promises, those numbers are only going to rise and fewer and fewer people are going to want to serve our country because of the empty promises made to help them. If they helped us by putting their lives out on the line, why aren't we helping them back with the support they need? Thank you.