President Obama announced a recommitment of the federal government to caring for veterans returning from combat as well as those from previous wars. As a matter of principle, it’s a shame more wasn’t done earlier. When going to war, great commitment is made to preparing soldiers for life as a warrior. It’s only fitting that the government in turn provides all the resources it takes to prepare soldiers to return to life as a citizen. That commitment has been lacking throughout our history.
Effectively, the changes will reduce red tape and other barriers to treatment for hundreds of thousands of soldiers: “No longer will veterans have to prove what caused their illness. Instead, they would have to show that the conditions surrounding the time and place of their service could have contributed to their illness. ‘I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application,’ the president said.”
While this is a positive step to expedite necessary treatment, other problems remain such as access and availability. Today, soldiers returning from combat often experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and there is little available in terms of access to services and treatment. Soldiers particularly in rural areas face a dilemma as the attempt to reenter family life and return to work, college, or both. Because of the lack of access, soldiers are faced with a choice between becoming a productive citizen and taking care of their mental health needs.
The changes are welcome, but I do hope they are merely a first step in rectifying the treatment of soldiers returning from combat and making the often difficult transition back to civilian life.