In Our View: Some Wounds Are Invisible

Veterans Day is an appropriate timeto study our heroes' inner challenges

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Today, Americans pause to honor veterans of the armed services. Specifically, the recognition is keyed to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the precise time in 1918 when Germany signed the armistice agreement with the Allies and the "War to End All Wars" concluded.Men and women have defended American freedoms for more than two centuries, but despite modern medical and psychological advances, there still is much we do not know about the tribulations that veterans and their families face. Within military communities, the magnitude of these challenges varies depending on circumstances of deployment. Fortunately, research by many agencies and organizations is shedding light on these issues. Among those groups is the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research and policy analysis institution that has compiled "Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery."

As The Columbian joins in honoring our military veterans, we also present the following findings. More details are at http://veterans.rand.org.

According to a report by RAND's Sarah O. Meadows, "children of currently deployed parents have higher rates of anxiety symptoms than a comparable national sample of same-aged children … Prior studies have shown that, during peacetime, kids from military families do not differ from their nonmilitary peers in terms of mental health and behavioral outcomes, and in some cases, fare better on these outcomes." However: "Deployments are stressful for all families, but a growing body of research suggests that they can be even more stressful for families who are part of the approximately 1.1 million service members who are part of National Guard or Reserve units."

What makes these Guard unit families different? Meadows writes that they "often live far removed from the built-in resources and support systems that are provided to active component families who live on, or near, a military base."

Furthermore, a child of a National Guard or Reserve member "may be the only child in their entire school who has a parent in the military. … (their families) often do not know what to expect when a deployment occurs, nor do they always know where to go for assistance … teachers, pediatricians, psychologists and other service providers in those communities often do not have the military information … needed to support these families."

Among all members of the military, according to the "Invisible Wounds of War" report, "post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and traumatic brain injury … are often invisible to the eye, remaining invisible to other service members, family members and society in general."

These unseen wounds "affect mood, thoughts, and behavior; yet these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged."

Regarding the Veterans Administration, RAND found that most veterans "expressed satisfaction with VA services." But a study of veterans in New York state revealed "that it was difficult to navigate the existing system of benefits and services across both VA and non-VA providers."

As we have continually editorialized, American veterans have done their part. But other Americans still have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to fulfilling the duty to help veterans and their families deal with their invisible wounds of war. Let us all keep that in mind as federal budget negotiations unfold in coming months.