There are over 22 million veterans living in the U.S. today, and their needs are as diverse as they are. Supporting veterans and their families is a national responsibility and one that is becoming more complex with every passing year, yet few jobs are as satisfying as helping those who have served in this nation’s military. While there are many positions that support veterans and their families, five workplace settings stand out as being extremely valuable to veterans.
One of the most perplexing challenges that most veterans face is the job change from the military to the private sector. Vocational counselors who focus on veterans are needed all over the country because veterans are trained to do jobs in the military that may not translate into civilian careers. The job of the career counselor serving veterans is to help them find their strengths and employment interests, then translate those into gainful employment. The specific focus needs to be on helping veterans use their military training, their soft skills and their talents to pursue their interests in both employment and in higher education.
Most veterans have earned educational benefits from the GI Bill, thus making higher education more accessible to veterans than to many of their peers. Colleges and universities already provide academic and student counselors, however, veterans have specific benefits and challenges which must be taken into consideration. Veterans counselors must be familiar with tuition and housing funding, as well as program and academic progress requirements for every GI program including pre and post 9/11 versions. Academic progress is a significant issue when counseling veterans because they often have confounding factors which may pose challenges to graduation regardless of the program in which they are enrolled.
The issues faced by many veterans pose a specific challenge to health care providers. The addition of skilled veterans counselors to health care teams is often the key to successful treatment for our veterans who may have physical disabilities or illnesses. According to the Census Bureau, veterans are more likely to suffer from poor health and chronic health issues at an earlier age than their non-veteran counterparts. While the medically trained health care providers are able to focus on the physiological challenges immediately facing veterans, counselors are the service providers who are able to delve into the whole person and bring additional support to the veterans.
Mental Health Support Providers
Many times the injuries that veterans experience are not overtly obvious. While everyone can see that a veteran who is wheelchair-bound is disabled, mental health disabilities are often overlooked or perceived as invalid disabilities. A recent VA study found that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide every single day. Veterans counselors are a crucial tool to help veterans heal from the invisible disabilities that are sending veterans to an early grave. Veterans mental health counselors are needed in all areas that touch veterans lives, from hospitals and schools to social organizations.
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While veterans utilize health care services more than many other demographic, they also require social services in order to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle. Employment and housing assistance are used by veterans outside of the VA, as well as food assistance and utility assistance. Veterans counselors working within government and non-profit social service agencies are better able to bring in specific resources to serve veterans because they are well versed in the specific challenges that veterans face in civilian life.
Veterans and their families have made major sacrifices during their lives in the service of this country. Veterans counselors are uniquely qualified to pull together all the knowledge and resources available for society to serve those valued members of our nation.