Military Families Forgotten

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a group has focused on issues affecting combat veterans, has expanded its mission to include military families.In a report released Wednesday, the group says the extended combat deployments have taken their toll on spouses and children, financially and emotionally, and government isn’t doing enough to help.

The report is called Unsung Heroes: Military Families After 10 Years of War, and IAVA officials call it the “first and most comprehensive of its kind” because it looks at a wide range of problems and suggests solutions.

During deployments, “spouses face an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression, sleeping problems and other mental disorders as the result of the stress of separation and fear for their service members’ lives,” the report says. Also children “face developmental challenges resulting from similar stresses, frequent moves and households managed by single parents.”

Challenges facing families don’t stop when the deployment is over, the report says. “In many ways, they are just beginning. The reunion of family members can be an exciting and happy time, but it can also cause stress and unforeseen emotional challenges.

The report also says financial burdens on families “have also been significant and imposing.” Spouses have problems finding work, and there are predatory lenders promising quick and easy solutions to financial problems that can get families even deeper in trouble

“Military families are often lured into taking these loans because they believe they have no other options. Combined with high extension fees, the borrowers subsequently get stuck in a cycle of debt,” the report says.

The report includes six primary recommendations for helping families.

• To help spouses fine jobs, professional licenses and certifications that would be more uniform and portable so they apply across state lines, something IAVA previously recommended to help separating service members find work.

• Affordable and high-quality child care services need to be more accessible, especially for families who live off base where there are fewer affordable options.

• Service members and families need more protection from predatory and abusive lenders.

• More mental health providers are needed who understand military culture and who can help service members and families.

• To reduce the chances of military children falling behind in school because of frequent moves, uniform graduation requirements would help to eliminate differences between school districts. The report says a military child changes schools six to nine times before they graduate from high school.

• More public awareness campaigns are needed to both raise awareness about the challenges facing military families and to try to get the general public to provide help.

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