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WWP Survey Highlights Veterans' Mental Health, Toxic Exposure Concerns

Wounded Warrior Project released its 12th Annual Warrior Survey (AWS) on Feb. 22, providing the largest and most comprehensive look at the greatest needs of post-9/11 wounded veterans in areas such as mental, physical, and financial health.

Among the most striking findings in this year’s AWS:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 of the approximately 18,000 post-9/11 wounded veterans who responded the survey said they have had suicidal thoughts in the preceding year, with most of those (70%) having those thoughts in the preceding two weeks.
  • One in 5 WWP warriors reported having difficulty or delays in receiving mental health care, and 2 in 3 of those said they felt embarrassed about receiving such care, and  59% don’t know where to find it.
  • Nearly all WWP warriors (98%) reported exposure to hazardous or toxic substances during their military service.

In addition, women represent the fastest-growing population in both military service and the veteran community, and they experience unique challenges and gaps in care. Among this year’s AWS findings:

  • Nearly 7 in 10 female WWP warriors report they have experienced military sexual trauma (MST).
  • When asked about barriers to VA care, 20 percent of WWP women warriors cite a lack of sensitivity to women’s needs.
  • From a financial wellness perspective, female warriors employed full-time earned on average $100 less weekly than their male counterparts.
  • Overall, female warriors agree that their military experience was positive less frequently than male warriors (66% vs. 82%), that they’re able to maintain a social support of military friends (60% vs. 66%), and that co-workers respect they are a veteran (79% vs. 86%).

The AWS helps WWP develop programs that target and address the problems of greatest concern to post-9/11 veterans across America. It also helps inform the group’s efforts to advocate for public policies in Washington, DC, that will make the federal government more effective at delivering care and assistance to veterans who need it. For example, WWP cited key AWS findings repeatedly during its recent Congressional testimony before a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees (See accompanying article for more details.)

The greatest casualty is being forgotten – and the Annual Warrior Survey reminds us to never forget the service and sacrifice of our veterans,” WWP CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington said. “We must act on the survey’s findings to support their needs.”

This year’s survey was sponsored by Fortune 500 company CSX, which has a particular interest in veterans’ issues because 1 in 5 of its employees served in the military, and many continue to hold Reserve or National Guard status.

As part of this year’s AWS announcement, three WWP officials and a senior White House official participated in a widely viewed panel discussion with the Brookings Institution on Feb. 22. More than 700 people tuned in to watch the event live online. Representing WWP were Chief Program Officer Jennifer Silva, Vice President of Connection and Wellness Program Management Tracy Farrell, and Vice President of Program Operations and Partnerships Melanie Mousseau. They were joined by Terri Tanielian, Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs.

“The whole reason we started this effort over a decade ago was to make sure that we put our precious resources towards the biggest challenges for the warriors and families that we serve” Silva said at the Brookings event. “In order to foster the most successful, well-adjusted of generation of injured veterans in our nation’s history, we wanted to tackle those biggest challenges and make sure that they could really thrive after service.”

WWP will also use this year’s AWS findings to advocate in support of legislation to improving access to mental health care, improve financial security, and address the unique challenges facing women veterans and caregivers. Click here to learn more about WWP’s 2022 Legislative Priorities and here to read the full Annual Warrior Survey results.

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