Washington DC (July 24, 2014) – According to a new survey completed by IAVA members, 47 percent of respondents know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide, while 40 percent of respondents know someone who has died by suicide, up three points from 2013.
That is one of many critical findings from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s (IAVA) groundbreaking 2014 Annual Member Survey, released today at a press conference and panel event in Washington DC. The largest and deepest recent survey of post-9/11 veterans provided insight into a number of critical issues, including suicide, mental health, VA wait times, mental health care utilization, the disability claims backlog, employment, burn pit exposure, reintegration challenges and more.
Fifty-three percent of respondents said they have a mental health injury. A staggering 31 percent of respondents have thought about taking their own life since joining the military, a one percent increase from 2013. These findings underscore the need for Congress to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act, comprehensive legislation named after an Iraq War Marine veteran and IAVA member who died by suicide in 2011.
The survey also highlights barriers veterans face when seeking mental health care at the VA, an issue that has taken center stage since the VA scandal erupted in late April. A shocking 68 percent of VA mental health users indicate challenges scheduling appointments. Forty-six percent of respondents think that the VA is doing a bad job of reaching out to veterans regarding mental health.
One area where respondents had a positive reaction is education. Seventy-eight percent of respondents who have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill rate the experience as good or excellent. However, 36 percent of those respondents received late GI Bill payments from VA.
The full 2014 Annual Member Survey is available for download here: http://iava.org/survey/
Additional highlights from the survey include:
Suicide and Mental Health:
- 73% do not think that troops are getting the care they need for mental health injuries
- 38% think the VA is doing a good job on mental health
- 26% think the Department of Defense is doing a good job
VA Disability Backlog:
- 70% of respondents who filed a disability compensation claim waited over 120 days for the VA to notify them of a decision on their claim
- 65% of respondents reported a financial impact while they waited on their claim
- 62% of respondents have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill (either personally or their dependents have used it)
- 10% of respondents were unemployed
- 77% of respondents have experienced a period of unemployment since leaving the military
Burn Pit Exposure:
- 76% of respondents were exposed to burn pits while deployed and over half report symptoms as a result
Women in Combat:
- 70% of females and 43% of males think women’s advancement in the military has been limited by restrictions on women in combat
- 54% of respondents think the President is doing a poor job improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
- 69% of respondents think Congress is doing a poor job improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
- 88% of respondents are concerned that the end of the war in Afghanistan will negatively affect public attention to issues concerning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
“This groundbreaking survey shows the true voice of our generation on the most pressing issues in America. It’s the deepest and most extensive recent survey done of this population. If you really want to know what post-9/11 vets think, read this survey. We hope it will serve as a resource for all Americans who want to understand how our community really feels—and what we are facing. We hope it will serve as a resource to Congress, non-profits, philanthropists, DoD, VA and the President,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “These veterans are America’s new greatest generation and our nation’s future leaders. For over a decade they’ve continuously had America’s back. But too often, they are being ignored. This survey is instrumental in showing all Americans how they can help vets in almost every key area.”
This is the largest and deepest poll conducted of verified post-9/11 veterans in recent history. Unlike any other study in America, respondents have had their military service verified by IAVA. The overall number of respondents is also extremely noteworthy. The total is more than twice the number recently surveyed by the Washington Post.
Note to media: Email email@example.com or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA leadership.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 8,000 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.