In recognition of Veterans Day, the House of Representatives introduced a bill that encourages every civilian to observe today by offering to listen, with respect and without judgment, to a veteran tell the story of the veteran's time at war and experience since returning home. Most veteran legislation reflects the need for policies on provision of adequate mental and physical health care, financial and housing assistance, and honoring veterans. Very few bills introduced to the legislature promote the safety and wellbeing of children and families of veterans.
A veteran's experience when they return home from war is a time of joy for a family but also a time of stress as the experience of war can take a toll on the veteran and his/her family. The men and women that serve our country often times develop depression (4% to 14%), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (12% to 25%), traumatic brain injury (TBI) (11% to 19%), and increased mental health symptoms (18% to 35%) as a result of their deployment.
Children whose parents have served in active duty react to their parent's deployment in a number of ways. These reactions are dependent on the child's developmental stage, age, and presence of existing mental or behavioral concerns. Much like children in the child welfare system, these children experience:
- Separation anxiety
- Temper tantrums
- Change in eating habits
- Decline in academic performance
- Mood changes
- Acting out
- Signs of withdrawal
The effects of parents serving in the military start at the time of deployment and continue far beyond the return home of the service member. The success of these children depends on the support system in their home environment. The services and resources available are similar to the ones provided in the child welfare system, such as:
Currently, there is one bill introduced in the House of Representatives that focuses on this issue: H.R. 79 - Dependent Care Act of 2011. If enacted, this bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide health care for both physical and mental injuries inflicted on family members by a veteran who is enrolled in the VA patient enrollment system and who has been diagnosed with PTSD or TBI. For more information on policies involving veterans, visit NAMI's Veterans website and their Advocacy Action Center: Veterans.
Do you feel child welfare policies play an important role in serving veterans and their families? In what ways can policies better serve these families?