In this paper, I will focus on the topic of the effects of PTSD on the family and why veterans are returning to the country homeless. All across the United States of America, veterans are recognized and seen as heroes who have countlessly placed their lives on the line for this country, so why is it that many of them are returning to their country from deployments and services to ending up homeless? Homeless veterans initially came to the country’s attention in the 1970s and 1980s, when homelessness generally was becoming a more prevalent and noticeable phenomenon. Throughout this paper, I will be discussing the reasons why veterans, heroes of the country, are returning back homeless.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can have many effects on the family of a veteran. Due to the fact that the effects of PTSD, as well as other traumas, can modify and alter how a veteran feels and acts. Simply, traumatic occurrences that happens to one family member can affect everyone else in the family. Unfortunately, the power of these symptoms can make it hard for them to get along with other family members which can result in them withdrawing from their family. When trauma reactions are severe and go on and on without proper and professional treatment, this can cause many problems in the family. Members who find themselves attempting to cope with a beloved member of the family member who deals with PTSD may find themselves reacting in many ways. A few of these reactions that I am going to provide are quite common in veterans’ families who have to deal with one who suffers from PTSD.
One reaction that most family members have is sympathy. Without a doubt, people will feel remorse for a loved one who’s a veteran if they are suffering with PTSD or any other disorder due to a traumatic event. Indeed, it can be helpful for the veteran to know that his or her family sympathize with him or her. It might sound odd, but too much sympathy from the family can have a negative outcome. When it leads to ‘babying’ a vet and very low expectations for them, it can very well possibly send a message or hint to them that they aren’t strong enough to overcome their disorder. While reading an article, the author gave an example that said, “For example, if a wife has so much sympathy for her husband that she doesn’t expect him to work after a traumatic experience, the husband may think that she doesn’t have any confidence in his ability to recover and go back to work” (Jobe-Shields, 10).
Disconnection and detachment are a huge effect of PTSD. Aside from other family issues that may exist, veterans who return home from war can sometimes may feel detached and disconnected from his or her family and friends; even civilians. Also, many veterans don’t feel comfortable enough communicating to family about what occurred, not wanting to inform them on the realities of the war zone, or just believing that no one will truly understand because they weren’t there during their deployment. According to an article that I read, it said, “Often, the feeling and urge of wanting to isolate oneself from family can eventually result in a loss of understanding, support, and attachment” (Perciotti, 22). Many returning veterans who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start feeling not to talk much about their time. So, they call themselves protecting their family from their emotions, both positive and negative ones. To do just that, the shut down and build a ‘safe haven’ to isolate themselves from family and remain distant. This in particular can lead to homelessness.
Homelessness is a problem and a barrier for many countries around the world that is being faced daily. The definition of homelessness differs from person to the next. The United States Department of Health and Human Service’s definition of homelessness is: “An individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets, stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle, or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation” (The United States Department of Health and Human Services). One of the many reasons why veterans are homeless is due to the lack of legal aid. Many veterans can’t afford lawyers for their behalf. A nine-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Randall Barry was once homeless. He was a well awarded soldiers throughout his service. However, during his last deployment, he started to experience bipolar disorder symptoms. Shortly after he noticed his symptoms, Barry decided to see a psychologist in the Force, but he was never formally diagnosed. According to ‘The Washington Post’, “After he [Barry] was discharged in 1989, Barry struggled to find work while his mental-health symptoms persisted. Without an official diagnosis, the VA denied his application for disability compensation. With no job and no benefits, he became homeless in 2008” (The Washington Post 2019).
He soon connected with HVP, the Homeless Veterans Project Law Center which is both a medical and legal partnership that provides health care, case management and legal services to high needed veterans for urgent health services. The attorneys helped connect Mr. Barry with housing and a psychiatrist who diagnosed and treated his disorder. Now with a diagnosis, the lawyers helped Barry obtain his long, overdue benefits he so well deserved via a disability claim. Due to the fact that Barry found an institution that aided him with legal advice, he is now safely housed and financially secure for the first time in forever. According to a recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, “At least five out of the top 10 problems leading to homelessness among veterans cannot be solved without legal help” (The Department of Veteran Affairs 2010).
It is most difficult to come to an understanding knowing that someone who has served and fought for our country are living and abandoned on the streets. For countless of veterans, if not all, homelessness has become a sad part of their reality. There are so many homeless veterans across this country. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs informational website, “The most recent PIT Count was conducted in January 2019. This national snapshot of Veteran homelessness showed that 37,085 veterans experienced homelessness in January 2019, compared to 37,878 in January 2018. Nearly 40,000 veterans who fought for us are suffering daily” (The US Department of Veteran Affairs, 2018). One of the biggest contributing factors to homelessness among the veteran population is post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Many veterans that suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder do not receive good enough treatment for their disorder. Due to this disorder, many can’t maintain jobs and maintaining connections with families and their friends. When veterans are discharged from the military, many of them struggle to fit back in with civilian life. Research shows veterans’ lack of support and social isolation contributes to homelessness among veterans with PTSD.
Although I would love to give a prominent answer to why many of our veterans coming back homeless, there is an abundance of research to do. Beyond the examples that I have provided, there are still many other factors that can lead a veteran becoming homeless. As for the responses of families to their beloved related veterans who suffer from PTSD, you can see that there are many different types of responses and effects on families from that. While there are many studies on veteran homelessness, the goal is to figure out why they are homeless. I must point out that no one has been able to fully answer the question of why veterans are coming back homeless, but I hope that in the future, there will be more and advanced studies on this issue and find a more prominent answer. Until then, one can only say that there are many factors that lead to this event, such as lack of assistance provided, mental illnesses, PTSD, lack or loss of support, and the lack of legal aid.