More than three out of four injured post-9/11 veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder and roughly the same number suffer from major anxiety, according to a survey released Sept. 10 by Wounded Warrior Project.
The nonprofit’s annual poll of members, almost all of whom were injured or ill from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, showed that while many recently disabled veterans are doing well, others struggle with mental health conditions, physical problems and financial issues.
“Our warriors coming back from multiple deployments and traumatic situations face daunting challenges,” said Jen Silva, executive vice president of economic empowerment for Wounded Warrior Project.
According to the survey, troops with mental health conditions continue to face difficulties getting mental health care. More than half (55 percent) said they had sought treatment; a third (34 percent) said they had trouble getting care or put off care; and a third (33 percent) said they were not comfortable getting treatment at Defense Department or Veterans Affairs Department facilities.
The nearly 14,000 veterans who responded to the poll also reported physical challenges. According to the report, 83 percent said they are overweight or obese — the result largely of the physical limitations of their injuries — and 80 percent said they had trouble sleeping.
The survey, a collaboration between Wounded Warrior Project, the Rand Corp. and Westat, is among the most comprehensive of this group of injured troops. It has been conducted annually since 2010.
“We use findings of the annual surveys to not only refine and improve our own 19 programs and services, but to help all those working in the veterans service space,” Wounded Warrior Project executive director Steve Nardizzi said.
The group largely feels supported, cared for and resilient. Eighty-six percent said they had family or friends they could depend on and 55 percent said they believe they can handle change or challenges.
But many are worried about their finances — 39 percent said they are worse off now financially than last year — and 17.8 percent are unemployed.
“That’s a very high rate,” Silva said. “It’s one of our highest priorities to make sure they are employed.”
Regarding substance abuse, the wounded warriors are fairly disciplined. One in four respondents said they either do not drink alcohol or have not consumed alcohol more than four times a month in the past year.
Wounded Warrior Project conducts the survey to guide development of its programs and services but it also contributes to the breadth of available knowledge on this population, according to Silva.
“There’s a lifetime of commitment that those of us serving wounded warriors need to embrace and make sure we are there for them as they go back to school, enter the workplace and tackle their physical ailments,” Silva said.