Written by: Jenny Hale
In 2014, the total number of servicemembers who had been wounded in action since 2001 totaled 52,281. Operation Iraqi Freedom held 31,949 of these members and Operation Enduring Freedom accounted for 20,037.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has 128,496 recorded cases for service members who have been deployed since 2002. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) have accounted for 307,282 cases across all branches of the military since the year 2000. Post-9/11, 1,573 servicemembers have had limb amputations as a result of combat injuries.
With these statistics, it’s no surprise that disabilities are common among veterans returning from post-9/11 wars. A survey by the Wounded Warrior Project showed that in 2014, almost 80 percent of the individuals surveyed had a friend that was killed or wounded during combat. Almost 61 percent revealed that they were physically moved by an explosion during the deployment. 63 percent were injured but didn’t need hospitalization. 43 percent were injured or wounded and needed hospital attention.
Over 75 percent of the Wounded Warrior members surveyed said that they have PTSD. This is no surprise as almost 65 percent remember smelling decomposing bodies, almost 76 percent saw an accident that lead to a death and almost 19 percent engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Over 43 percent surveyed reported a traumatic brain injury and over 64 percent reported being hit in the head from an accident.
With so many wounded veterans and servicemembers struggling with these types of disabilities, finding a job after they separate from the military can be difficult. As of summer 2014, veterans with a service-related disability had an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent. More programs and organizations have become available to these individuals in order to help prepare them for the civilian job sector after separation. One of these organizations is the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF). IVMF hosts a variety of programs for veterans and active duty service members seeking a transition out of the military into a civilian career.
One of these programs is specifically for veterans with service-connected disabilities. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) is a program provided to qualifying post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability and military family members who serve in a caregiver role to a veteran with a service-connected disability. Since 2007, EBV has provided veterans with entrepreneurship skills and mentorship at no-cost to them or their family members.
Lovay Wallace-Singleton was a 20-year air traffic controller in the Navy. She is now a disabled veteran, suffering from bilateral carpal tunnel. Wallace-Singleton is a graduate of the IVMF’s EBV program.
“EBV was my first program from IVMF and assisted me with deciding on the type of business I wanted and the importance of the business and strategic plans,” Lovay Wallace-Singleton, an EBV graduate said.
She began a gardening business called Veterans Employment Base Camp and Organic Garden that employs veterans and offers Horticulture Therapy as a way to regain strength after an injury.
IVMF knows that entrepreneurship follows current trends. People with disabilities are nearly two times as likely to be self-employed. Statistics show that 14.7 percent of disabled people own businesses compared to eight percent of the rest of the population. In addition, veteran-owned businesses represent almost 10 percent of all entrepreneurial businesses.
IVMF offers several other programs that focus on entrepreneurship training for female veterans, military spouses and military families. The organization also specializes in certification training for IT fields and other civilian career preparation.
To learn more about Lovay Wallace-Singleton and VEBCOG, please visit her website at http://www.veteransorganicgarden.com/. To learn more about the EBV program, watch their promotional video or visit their website.
Jenny Hale is currently a Public Relations graduate student at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. Hale is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management with degrees in Marketing and Supply Chain Management. Her minor is in Native American Studies. Hale has spent time volunteering at the VA Hospital and is an active military and veteran supporter. She is currently a public relations and marketing intern at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.