Nearly two-thirds of young disabled veterans faced significant financial problems in the past year despite improving employment prospects for the group, according to a new report released by the Wounded Warrior Project on Wednesday.
Of the roughly 19,000 veterans surveyed by the group, more than 12,000 (64%) said they “couldn’t make ends meet at some point in the past 12 months.” More than 80% said that rising inflation costs created financial hardship for their families.
“It’s not a surprise to us,” said Jen Silva, chief program officer for WWP. “Operationally, we had already seen big jumps in the emergency financial assistance requests to us from warriors and family members. So, the data just confirms what we’re already seeing.”
Group officials said they spent about five times more in financial aid to members in 2022 than they did in 2021, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in America.
That happened even though the unemployment rate for the group fell from a high of 13.4% in 2021 to just under 7% in 2022 (still almost three times higher than the rate for all American veterans, and twice that of the general population).
About 27% of individuals surveyed said they had steady employment but still “didn’t earn enough.”
Because the annual survey is restricted only to WWP members, it is not necessarily reflective of the entire Iraq and Afghanistan War population or all injured veterans.
However, officials said the findings do reflect trends within the group’s 165,000 members, who are among the most active users of Veterans Affairs benefits and services. WWP leaders said they use the findings to guide programming and priorities for future years.
In the case of financial aid, the group is already bracing for continued need this year.
“We’re expecting the requests to be about the same,” Silva said. “It doesn’t seem to be getting any better yet.”
Mental health issues (48%) and struggles with transitioning military skills to civilian jobs (37%) were the top self-reported problems with finding better employment, according to the survey.
Despite those challenges, the increased financial strain does not appear to be causing a surge in mental health issues, researchers noted.
About 75% of individuals surveyed reported dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. More than one in four had suicidal thoughts in the past year. Those figures were all on par with previous years.
But WWP members were more likely than their peers to seek help for those issues, with 66% saying that they saw a mental health professional at least once in the past year. About 40% reported four or more sessions in the past 12 months.
The full survey is available on the WWP web site.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.