IS on the Road: A Conversation on the Most Pressing Issues Facing America’s Veterans Community

This week, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) released the results of their ninth Annual Warrior Survey during a panel discussion hosted by Brookings Institution. Lindsay Marcal from our membership team had the opportunity to attend the morning discussion, which was held Wednesday, December 4 in the Choate Room at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Lindsay is closely invested in the work of Independent Sector’s 400+ members like WWP. And because her father is a vet, attending this discussion was especially personal and meaningful for her. “I grew up with a strong appreciation for our service members and the contributions of veterans,” Lindsay said. “This event served as a reminder for me of that importance.”

Before the panel discussion, WWP CEO Lt. General Michael Linnington highlighted the great and growing need for services of both active duty service members and veterans. The discussion that followed was grounded in the most pressing issues facing America’s service members and veterans with a focus on wounded, ill, and injured veterans. WWP’s latest Annual Warrior Survey is both the ninth issuing in its history, and the first to include five-year trends. The panel that presented and discussed the results of the survey included:

  • Keita Franklin, National Director of Suicide Prevention, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Anthony (Tony) Kurta, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy
  • Melanie Mousseau, Director of Metrics, Wounded Warrior Project
  • Michael E. O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, The Brookings Institution (Moderator)

The survey results captured several different indicators of the overall health of our nation’s vets, and each panelist focused on a different indicator:

  • Mousseau underscored that PTSD, which affects 78 percent of post-9/11 vets and is on the rise, is the primary health challenge facing vets. Toward the end of the panel discussion, Mousseau also underscored the need for more comprehensive representation of veterans’ stories so that the public has a more nuanced understanding of those who have served and are then better able to support them after service.
  • Kurta cited heartening trends in education and home ownership for veterans. While still notably higher than the general civilian population, unemployment rates among vets are also going down. Nonetheless, because of the changing nature of the conflicts service members have engaged in, Kurta stressed the importance of ensuring that the services we provide our veterans is responsive to those changes.
  • Franklin pointed out increased suicide rates among active duty service members and veterans ages 18-34 as a signal of the importance of supporting our service members in their transition to life after service. In response, Franklin thinks that it’s important to be very intentional about helping veterans find a satisfying career path after service, but she acknowledged that some veterans may need to accept jobs that don’t align perfectly with their career goals. She highlighted NGOs and community organizations as groups that are especially well positioned to engage veterans in meaningful volunteer work. Veterans have skills that translate and contribute substantially to purpose-driven work, and the civic nature of the work is something that can resonate with veterans in their lives after service.

Following the discussion, WWP Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations René Bardorf thanked the panelists for their contributions to the health and wellbeing of our nation’s service members and veterans. Both the content of the panel discussion and Bardorf’s acknowledgment resonated with audience members, many of whom were themselves veterans.

Special thanks (yet again!) to Lindsay Marcal for making it out to this member event, and for sharing photos and highlights to help us bring you this installment of IS on the Road!

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Data, Health and Human Services, IS Member, IS Staff, Public Policy