Troops, veterans, and their families continue to grapple with a number of problems that are unknown to average Americans, military officials say.
Among the most significant – and one that the White House initiative aims to address – are the 43 percent of Guard and Reserve troops who comprise US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan yet get far less support than active duty troops. Because these service members and their families do not live on military bases, for example, they do not have the same access to community resources and care as active-duty troops do, officials note.
The children of Guard and Reserve troops often suffer as a result. They demonstrate higher levels of “disengagement” than do children of their active-duty counterparts and show greater difficulty adjusting to having their parents back home upon return from deployment, according to a study from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a think tank that will be helping to administer the new White House initiative.
The White House is reaching out to local parent-teacher associations, to encourage them to help smooth the transition of military children.
Homelessness continues to plague veterans, as well. About one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. The Veterans Administration estimates that 107,000 veterans nationwide are homeless on any given night. While only 8 percent of the US population are veterans, veterans make up 20 percent of the homeless population, according to the coalition.
Much of the stress placed on troops and their families is the result of the rapid pace of deployments in the 10 years since the war in Afghanistan began, say military officials. Of the 2.2 million US troops who have deployed during that time, some 800,000 have served multiple tours, including 25 percent who have gone to war three or more times, notes the CNAS report.