Nearly one in three post-9/11 veterans — 30 percent — has considered suicide. Forty-five percent of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan know a veteran who has thought about taking his or her own life. And 37 percent know a veteran who has committed suicide.
Those grim statistics are among the results of a new survey released Wednesday conducted by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA.) The questionnaire, which IAVA does annually, also found deep unhappiness at how lawmakers in Washington treat those who put their lives on the line in combat.
How’s President Barack Obama doing? By a lopsided 66-25 percent margin, respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the notion that he listens enough to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Thirteen percent professed no opinion.
Asked to rate Obama’s performance on improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 44 percent of respondents said poor, 31 percent said fair, 20 percent said good, and 5 percent said excellent.
That’s not nearly as bad as Congress, though: Fully 80 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the notion that lawmakers listen enough, against just 9 percent who agreed or strongly agreed. Eleven percent weren't sure.
How about improving the lives of veterans? Fifty-five percent said Congress has done a poor job, 36 said a fair job, 9 percent a good job, and 1 percent said an excellent job.
The survey is not a scientific poll. It reflected answers from 4,104 IAVA members, providing a snapshot of that population that may or may not reflect the experiences of all post-9/11 veterans. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they were Republican, 19 percent said Democrat, 30 percent said independent, 10 percent declined to answer, and 5 percent declared themselves libertarians. Sixty percent served in Iraq, 16 percent in Afghanistan, and 23 percent in both.
The Department of Veterans Affairs fared a bit better than politicians: 50 percent said the VA doesn’t listen enough, against 30 percent who said it does. Twenty percent offered no opinion.
But 80 percent say the VA and the Department of Defense are not providing the care veterans need for mental health problems.
Half of the respondents said people close to them encouraged them to seek mental health care — but 19 percent of them opted not to.
Why? Forty-three percent of those who did not seek such care said it was because it might negatively affect their career, a 22 percent increase from 2012, according to IAVA. Thirty-three percent said they worried they would be perceived differently by their peers.
At a time when Congress has been debating ways to combat sexual assault in the military, women veterans gave the VA mixed reviews.
Sixty-two percent of female vets had a neutral or negative opinion of the agency’s care for women. At the same time, 64 percent said the VA provided a safe and comfortable environment, 61 percent said the VA provided them with female practitioners, 57 percent said it provided doctors who specialize in treating women, 48 percent cited specialized facilities, and 52 percent said the VA has given them information related to women’s health care.
Asked for resources for struggling veterans, IAVA sent Yahoo News the following:
"IAVA works closely with the Veteran Crisis Line to ensure that every service member, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders."