Informing government decision makers through research & industry insights.

VA Reform Debate Misses Larger Veterans Issue

Marines Marching during the 2011 New York City Veterans Day Parade Marines Marching during the 2011 New York City Veterans Day Parade Flickr user DVIDSHUB (Creative Commons)

The Department of Veterans Affairs scandals and the subsequent reform bill passed by Congress have placed veterans issues in the political spotlight for the moment. But the debate over reform at the VA only scratches the surface of a much larger veterans issue - the civil-military divide. A recent nationwide poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 55 percent often or sometimes feel disconnected from civilian life as a result of their military service.

Furthermore, 69 percent said they often or sometimes feel average Americans cannot identify with their experience.

Part of the problem is, as 51 percent of the poll’s respondents indicated, the military is not doing enough to help veterans transition back to civilian life. However, the underlying cause may be the growing disconnect between civilian and military communities since the decision to end conscription and permanently establish the All-Volunteer Force in 1973. During the Vietnam War, the last war involving the draft, nearly 10 percent of Americans served in the military on active-duty. Today, less than 1 percent do so.

The professionalization of U.S. armed forces has further contributed to a form of isolation of military personnel. Troops and their families live on large bases separate in many ways from civilian society, and children of military personnel are much more likely to sign up to serve than other children. This is not to suggest that bringing back the draft is the solution. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey wrote last summer to commemorate the AVF’s 40th anniversary, “it’s been so effective that we often take it for granted.” Instead, the focus should be on how both civilians and veterans can better engage one another to ensure a healthier and more robust civil-military relationship.

At a recent event hosted by Defense One and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, veterans advocates identified the “otherization” of veterans in society as a significant impediment to their reintegration into civilian life. During the session, “The 1 Percent: Bridging the Military-Civilian Divide,” a panel of veterans including Representative Tulsi Gabbard, host of MSNBC’s “Taking the Hill” former Representative Patrick Murphy, former VA digital engagement officer Alex Horton, and Team Rubicon Division Administrator Mike Monroe argued that elevating veterans’ stories in the public discourse is key to bridging the disconnect.

Most Americans hear about veterans issues through the media, which, more often than not, highlights negative stories. As a result, they may be led to believe veterans are “others" with whom they cannot identify. By contrast, promoting positive stories and open conversation would help average Americans better identify with veterans, and help veterans become more comfortable talking about their own experiences. The veterans on the panel agreed that the onus is on them to get this conversation going, but, for the average American, the imperative is to challenge stereotypes and engage our veterans.

Disclaimer

This post is written by Government Business Council; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Government Executive Media Group's editorial staff. For more information, see our advertising guidelines.

FROM OUR SPONSORS

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.