Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) remains one of the most effective organizations in the nation working on behalf of veterans, especially those dealing with the physical, social, and emotional wounds of war. One of the organization’s biggest focuses is helping individuals transition successfully from service to civilian life through a number of dedicated programs. In addition, WWP helps connect individuals to resources and programs that can assist them with their individual health concerns.
WWP also aims to provide veterans a voice so that different groups can understand their needs and start to address them more directly. Each year, the organization conducts the Warrior Survey, which gives wounded warriors the opportunity to share their concerns, thoughts, and experiences with WWP and other groups concerned with veteran rights and needs. The insights gained from the survey help shape WWP programs and government approaches to veteran care. For more than a decade, the survey has remained one of the most statistically relevant reflections of the American veteran.
Major Successes from the Last Year of WWP Work
Recently, WWP published the results of its 2017 questionnaire, which show a number of important gains in the past year. For example, nearly 90 percent of all veteran respondents reported receiving benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Last year, only 85 percent of respondents received these benefits. Another major gain concerns unemployment. The unemployment rate dropped to 13 percent this year for non-active-duty military members. Last year, this figure was 16 percent. Access to education also seems to be improving due to the efforts of WWP and other organizations. While only 30 percent of respondents possessed a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016, this rate is now 33 percent. While these gains are all fairly small, they show significant progress in the right direction.
Continuing Mental Health Issues among American Veterans
At the same time, a great deal of work remains to be done. American veterans continue to struggle with a number of physical and psychological health problems. More than three-quarters of all respondents reported experiencing between four and 12 serious injuries or health problems; these issues are often very complex and may require a significant number of resources to address.
One of the highest-ranking health issues is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to the report. Many warriors continue to receive a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD, which can come years after the initial exposure to trauma. While the rate of PTSD has remained fairly steady in recent years, slight increases have been seen each year since 2015. In addition, the number of veterans who report dealing with depression continues to increase by small amounts annually.
The problem with mental health issues like PTSD and depression is the effects they can cause. For example, 75 percent of respondents said that they have trouble sleeping; this number is closely tied to the 77.4 percent of responders reporting PTSD and the 67.9 percent of respondents who stated that they experience anxiety-related problems. These issues can severely affect overall quality of life.
The survey also addressed another issue that often goes overlooked: military-related sexual trauma. More than one-third of all female responders said they dealt with sexual trauma during their service.
Physical Health Challenges American Veterans Face
Not all of the issues that veterans face are psychological in nature. In fact, many respondents deal with very severe physical injuries connected to their service. More than 7 out of 10 individuals said they had back, shoulder, or neck programs, and almost 6 out of 10 faced tinnitus. About half of all respondents reported severe headaches, knee injuries, and hearing loss.
Some of the physical issues that warriors face relate to changes in health status since their service. One of the most concerning findings of the survey relates to body mass index (BMI), which is the ratio of a person’s weight to his or her height. BMI ratings that fall in the obese and morbidly obese categories have continued to rise in the last three years. According to the 2017 survey, more than 45 percent of respondents fell into the obese category and more than 5 percent were morbidly obese. Only 13.2 percent of respondents had healthy or underweight BMI scores.
An additional study was launched to look into this weight-related issue. The researchers found that weight gains tend to increase just before and during the time of discharge. Within six years of discharge, rates of obesity triple. The subgroups most at risk of rapid weight gain include particularly young warriors, individuals with combat experience, and people who are overweight at the time of discharge. Some of the hypotheses offered to explain this result look at increased rates of depression and sleep problems, emotional stress, and limited physical activity due to injuries.
This survey helps WWP see where it excels while also pointing to potential areas for improvement. These include better weight-management support and more proactive mental health programs that combine social support with psychiatric treatment.