Vets Must Cope With Many Struggles

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Financial problems, unemployment, poor health and poorly managed and often ignored mental health seem to be the top challenges facing area veterans, officials said.

“Unemployment is quite high” in Henry County and Martinsville, and “adjusting to life after being in combat can be very difficult,” said Preston Page. He is a licensed social worker and licensed substance abuse treatment practitioner who has a practice in Martinsville.

"A great deal of terrible things happen in combat to you and other people. Sometimes you have caused terrible things to happen” he said. “Those things are hard to live with. Plus, you survived and came home,” said Page.

It appears that the rules at home are quite different than in the rules in the combat zone. Soldiers and their families often struggle as things have changed during the time of military service, and adjustment problems and relationship problems may result, Page has said.

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A study by the Virginia Tech Institute on Policy and Governance that indicated veterans in Southwest Virginia had alarming rates of depression. Page said there has been a huge increase in mental health services offered by the military since he was in Vietnam, and there are services available in the community and through other avenues.

“Many in our group have waited over five years to have their claims rated by the (VA),” she added. Rated means that a veteran qualifies for disability benefit depending on what percentage of his or her injury or health condition is service-connected.

According to a survey in the study, 47 percent of veterans responding in Southwest Virginia felt sad or depressed. Statewide the average was 34.8 percent. That is a great deal of soldiers that are depressed after serving their country,

The problem is it can be difficult for veterans to admit they need help and seek it, he said. In the military, personnel are taught to be strong and self-reliant, he said. The other problem is the VA is swamped.

The most important issue facing veterans today is “the delays, denials and excuses, we have been given by the (VA) in rating and processing the disability claims for our veterans. The fact that 380, plus, Vietnam veterans are dying each day makes it imperative these claims be expedited. Too long we have endured a maze of futile forms and one-sided claims and pension exams,” said Judy Doering coordinator of the support group Wives of Vietnam Veterans.

Many vets must cope with struggles that we may be unaware of and the waiting list for proper care seems to get longer and longer.

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