The most recent survey by the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) shows that one of the biggest challenges for veterans who were wounded or injured in service to their nation is mental health for veterans.
About The Annual Warrior Survey from Wounded Warrior Project®
For the last 12 years, WWP has surveyed thousands of injured or wounded post-9/11 veterans to understand their mental, physical and financial wellness needs. With this research, WWP tailors its services and programs to ensure veterans are receiving appropriate care and assistance. The Wounded Warrior Project also uses this feedback to advocate before Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on the veterans’ behalf.
“We use the data collected—the wonderful feedback from the warriors we serve—to actively drive our programs, and we want to make sure that our precious resources are put toward the biggest challenges for the warriors that we serve and their families,” said Jennifer Silva, chief program officer at WWP.
Wounded Warrior Project Survey Results
Mental Health for Veterans
Mental health was one of the key takeaways from the survey, outweighing the physical challenges for veterans wounded or injured during service.
“Mental health continues to be a concern of a critical nature for post-9/11 wounded warriors,” said Melanie Mousseau, vice president of program operations and partnerships at the Wounded Warrior Project. “Our data this year shows that nearly one in four of warriors had thoughts related to suicide in the last 12 months when they took the survey.”
On average, warriors reported six service-related injuries, with mental health problems being more than twice as common as physical. Of these, sleep problems were the leading issue at 78%, followed by PTSD (75%), anxiety (74%), and depression (72%).
Additional Key Findings From The Wounded Warrior Project Survey
Other key findings from the survey:
- Burn pits were a major health concern of this group, with almost 98% reporting exposure to hazardous substances. The top three exposure-related issues were decreased ability to exercise (44%), shortness of breath (43%) and chest pain (33%).
- Women veterans faced unique health challenges and experienced barriers to accessing care, with 20% citing there was “not enough access to women’s services at the VA” and another 19.7% saying there was a “lack of sensitivity to women’s needs.”
- Many warriors struggled financially, with almost half citing they did not have enough money to make ends meet at some point during the last 12 months.
Unfortunately, many of these findings were in line with trends from the last several years.
How Wounded Warrior Project Is Taking Action
Using survey information along with their operational data, WWP has built its resources to tackle these recurring issues. One of the areas they invested in over time was the Warrior Care Network.
“It’s an intensive outpatient program where warriors get a year’s worth of PTSD counseling in two weeks,” Silva said. “We’ve invested more into this program so we can treat the whole warrior and make sure there’s no gap in treatment. We now offer PTSD treatment plus traumatic brain injury and substance abuse disorder in one network.”
This year’s survey included more questions about women’s health. From their previous Women Warriors Initiative, WWP knew that women experienced gender-specific healthcare challenges. The survey helped them understand those barriers to healthcare and how WWP can grow services like telehealth to meet the unique needs of this population.
“As you can imagine, any time they don’t have to find childcare or reorganize their life and can attend something virtually, we’ve seen much higher participation in mental telehealth and peer support groups,” Silva said.
But it’s not only women who took advantage of telehealth services. Nearly 7 in 10 WWP warriors used the service in the past year, with over 80% being satisfied with the service. While their healthcare needs may be met virtually, veterans outpace the U.S. population in feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Warriors had a loneliness score of 6.1, over a third higher than other Americans. Female veterans especially, were more likely to report loneliness (70.7%) than their male counterparts (60.7%). These findings and other key details from the survey will not only help the WWP make educated decisions about its programs, but other companies, federal departments, and veterans service organizations (VSO) benefit as well.
How Did WWP Conduct the 2021 Survey?
In 2021, WWP teamed up with CSX Transportation, who helped fund this important research.
The survey was sent to 90,000 WWP warriors and had a response rate of 19.7%, which equated to approximately 17,500 respondents. This group represented 152,000 injured post-9/11 veterans across the United States and its territories.
For the 2021 survey, WWP transitioned their data collection method from receiving feedback from all warriors to obtaining data from the same cohort of veterans, which will allow them to observe changes in these individuals over time.
Bryan Tucker, vice president of corporate communications at CSX, said his company was proud to participate as a partner in the survey.
“We saw this opportunity to support the survey as a way to ensure we’re doing everything we can to help deliver the best possible resources to our nation’s wounded veterans,” he said. “By supporting research like this, we’re enabling the WWP to gain insights into the issues facing this community.”
But none of this is possible without the participation and support of the wounded warriors themselves.
“The most critical component of this whole thing is the warriors. We owe them a debt of gratitude for graciously volunteering their time and sharing their personal experiences,” Melanie said.
View the full Wounded Warrior Project Survey Report.
Mental Health Resources for Veterans
Wounded Warrior Project has interactive programs, rehabilitative retreats, and professional services. Learn more about WWP’s mental health services for veterans.
Also, the VA also has a variety of mental health resources for veterans.
Veterans experiencing a mental health emergency can contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance