Beyond the physical injuries of combat, war takes a toll on the emotional and mental health of veterans. Once home, many veterans are plagued by post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other severe anxiety disorders. A Rand study reports that 20 percent of returning veterans have PTSD and 10 percent have TBI. The stigma of mental illness, coupled with the bureaucratic barriers to justifying claims, create obstacles that keep veterans from getting the help they need. As a result, the Department of Veterans Affairs reports nationally that 22 veterans commit suicide daily.
The national statistics are mirrored on Long Island, which with 131,000 veterans has the largest veteran population in New York. An estimated 2,000 Long Island veterans are homeless, or are living in transitional housing or shelters. Many veterans struggle to reintegrate into civilian life, often while coping with serious mental health issues. At the same time, many veterans are mistrustful of seeking mental health services from the Veterans Administration (VA), often due to fears that their information will be shared.
Since 2011, through our mental health for veterans category, we have granted $220,000 to eight nonprofits. We have impacted a range of organizations working to prevent veteran suicide, help veterans get the services they need to reintegrate into society, reconnect with their loved ones, and deal with the issues that keep them from moving forward in their lives.
On Long Island:
- Long Island, with over 131,000 veterans, has the one of the largest population of veterans in the country. This spike in veteran numbers is due in part to the housing boom generated by Levittown, resulting in many World War II veterans settling on Long Island. The children of veterans are more likely than others to serve in the military.
- 5,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans live on Long Island.
- One in two veterans on Long Island returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has a mental health need.