In honor of Veterans’ Day, the Center for American Progress has a good video up taking stock of the state of America’s veterans in 2011. In it, former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb explains that today’s vets face two major challenges: the ones who served in Vietnam are getting older and their health problems, whether related to HIV or (Agent Orange-linked) cancer, are becoming more acute. Those who’ve served in Iraq and Vietnam are struggling, many of them, with mental health problems. (Fifty to sixty thousand service members have suffered physical injuries in the two wars; an estimated 500,000 have some kind of combat-stress-related mental illness).
Add to these challenges that vets are coming out of the services and into an abysmal economy where their specific skills (as distinct from their phenomenal training) aren’t always a great fit for the private sector. Korb recommends enlarging the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (and especially hiring more doctors) and developing specific training programs to help vets get the skills they need to compete in the job market. “You do not want them to have this gap between when they leave the service and when they get a job” says Korb, “and have a feeling that the country doesn’t appreciate the tremendous sacrifice they’ve made.” Watch below: