Each year, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) conducts a survey of the people it serves to understand more thoroughly their economic, mental, social, and physical needs and, more importantly, how these needs are changing over time. This survey has emerged as the largest of its kind—it’s an important marker of the progress made in the prior year and the new directions that can be explored in the coming one. The year 2018 marked the ninth time the survey was conducted and the first time that five-year trends were represented in the report. WWP presented the findings of the survey in December at The Brookings Institution during a panel that discussed the impact of the results on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD).
Remarkable Results from the 2018 WWP Annual Warrior Survey
Last year’s survey revealed a number of successes worth celebrating. For example, 70 percent of individuals surveyed were currently in educational programs for a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, while 36 percent had already earned a bachelor’s degree. This number is up from 33 percent in 2017. Moreover, 60 percent of respondents said that they owned their own home. In 2014, only 46 percent of participants were homeowners. WWP also made strides in terms of employment. Between 2014 and 2018, the unemployment rate among warriors decreased from 14 to 11 percent. Even more impressive, the unemployment rate among non-active duty warriors fell from 20 percent to 12 percent in the same time period. Additionally, prescription medication usage was down to 47 percent in 2018 from 51 percent in 2014.
While these are important achievements, WWP recognizes that it still has a lot of work to do in terms of mental health services for its warriors. According to the survey, 78 percent of respondents said that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was their main health challenge, and that they continue to actively deal with the condition. Importantly, 33 percent of warriors said that they had difficulty connecting to mental health care, that they did not get the care they needed, or that they put off seeking help. Among these individuals, there was a significant fear of stigma from peers and family, as well as concern about how seeking treatment might jeopardize their future careers and a perception that getting help demonstrates weakness.
The Path Forward for Increasing Mental Health Treatment at WWP
WWP is committed to meeting the needs of its members, especially given that 60 new warriors and family members registered for its services each day in 2018. Recognizing the impact that PTSD continues to have on the lives of warriors and the barriers to receiving care, WWP recently announced that it would invest $160 million in mental health care through the Warrior Care Network. This announcement represents a five-year extension of this network, which has helped connect individuals to high-quality mental health treatment. The Warrior Care Network first launched at the beginning of 2016 with a specific focus on addressing PTSD, as well as traumatic brain injury (TBI). WWP teamed with four academic medical centers to offer an entire year’s worth of mental health treatment in an intensive program lasting two to three weeks.
The network has had promising results for warriors experiencing PTSD, and the new $160 million investment will allow the program to reach many more across the nation. The funds will help serve nearly 16,000 more people in the coming five years and potentially drive new approaches to PTSD treatment through the network’s academic partners. Currently, the intensive approach includes traditional therapy, family programming, and outpatient therapy, although new pilot programs are exploring different approaches that could prove even more beneficial. The investment demonstrates WWP’s emphasis on addressing PTSD, which is thought to affect more than 500,000 veterans.
Getting a Charitable Boost from Emergency Response Company MobileHelp
Recently, a company that designs emergency response systems called MobileHelp announced a yearlong commitment to supporting WWP. For each new emergency response system purchased between January 2019 and January 2020, the company will donate $50 to WWP. This additional funding will help WWP continue to expand its programming to meet the changing needs of veterans, while also maintaining the key initiatives that have helped achieve the victories listed above. The potential for high levels of donations is an exciting prospect as WWP repositions itself to better handle the mental health crisis that is affecting our country’s warriors.
Donations from MobileHelp will be triggered by the purchase of a wide range of the company’s products, including a wearable device called MobileHelp Smart. This device, which combines the functionality of a smartwatch with emergency response features, has previously been given to individuals participating in the Warrior Care Network, as well as the WWP Soldier Ride Across America program. Whenever someone triggers the help button on this device or other MobileHelp products, trained operators receive a signal, and they in turn locate the person, determine the type of emergency, and coordinate a response.