Intended for community-based nonprofit organizations that offer support and services to US Veterans and their families that are not otherwise available through public organizations, such as the Veteran’s Administration. Funding priority is given to programs serving veterans returning from post-9/11 conflicts.
In the United States in 2016 there were 2.8 million veterans who served only in the post-9/11 time period in Iraq and/or Afghanistan; by 2021, the post-9/11 veteran population was estimated at just under 5.1 million. More specifically, as of 2019, the St. Louis metropolitan region was home to 226,000 veterans.
Understanding the Need & Marillac Mission Fund’s Response
Veterans go through a profound cultural shift when transitioning from military to civilian life, including struggling with their identity and purpose in society. As veterans leave the military, they transition to a less familiar civilian culture in which they must make their own decisions, find new jobs, renegotiate relationships, and engage with those at home who often cannot relate to what veterans experienced while in the military. Though many organizations exist to serve this population, Marillac Mission Fund has identified the following gaps in available services for veterans returning to the St. Louis region:
Veterans returning from conflict often struggle with mental health challenges. According to an MMF-funded study by Cindy Follman in 2016, individuals from the St. Louis region who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan returned home with complex mental and behavioral health challenges that have increased significantly over the years. Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are considered two of the most significant wounds that these post-9/11 service members face. When challenges with mental health are compounded by other factors such as lack of social support, the stigma associated with revealing a mental health issue can also discourage veterans from seeking needed care.
Sense of Purpose and Connection
Upon returning to civilian society, many veterans struggle with their sense of purpose. According to the report by Follman, veterans face challenges navigating the higher education and professional landscape. While 62% of Missouri workers aged 25-64 have some post-secondary education, only 30% of veteran jobseekers have a post-secondary education. Beyond this, though veterans are employed at higher rates than civilians, they stay in these positions for less time. Providing accommodations and connections for veterans in employment and educational settings, such as veteran affinity groups and Veteran Centers on campuses, can make a significant difference in not only providing veterans with a sense of purpose and full-time work, but in their ability to retain those positions, as well.
Though veterans face a myriad of struggles as they return to civilian life, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not provide legal services to veterans, which can be integral to helping service members gain greater stability in their lives. Specifically, the 2016 MMF study found that though the VA provides many benefits to veterans, access to these resources are dependent upon a veteran’s discharge status. Veterans with less than honorable discharges face a significant gap in legal services, one that is often accompanied or preceded by additional struggles related to mental health issues and instability.
Veteran Family Support
Veterans’ transition from the military back to civilian life is also often a family issue. While most individual veterans have VA support services upon returning to civilian life, their family does not. According to MMF’s report on veterans in the St. Louis region, “military families play a key role in helping to prepare service members for deployments, providing emotional support and motivation, and assisting with reintegration after returning home.” It is hard for families to understand the challenges their returning loved ones are experiencing. Thus, supportive services to help veterans’ families understand and cope with their challenges and those of their loved ones are critical.
Marillac Mission Fund works to support veterans facing mental health challenges, and support efforts in the St. Louis region that connect veterans to mental health services and communities of peers.