The troops are coming home. But what waits for them?

In his address to the nation Wednesday night, President Obama announced 10,000 U.S. troops will return home before the beginning of 2012 and all 30,000 surge troops will come home by the end of next year.  For families and friends with loved ones abroad, this announcement is nothing short of a God send.  But what waits for our troops when they return home?

Last week, a colleague of mine and I made the trip over to the Orlando VA Medical Center to take a tour and drop off  funds we raised through an event benefitting wounded veterans.  We sat with the director of donations and volunteer programs as we discussed how to best allocate our contribution.

The director suggested the money go towards buying work boots for homeless veterans who are looking for jobs.  I was shocked to hear of the veterans who are able to work, many have to pass up opportunities because they don’t have the proper shoes.  This certainly doesn’t help the already abysmal veteran unemployment rate, which is an upward of twenty percent in some states according to Bureau of Labor statistics via CBS.com.

As we toured the facility, the most striking feature was simply how busy it was. Veterans, family members, volunteers, and staff filled the hallways.  Many of the waiting areas teamed with activity as veterans waited patiently to receive treatment.  Additionally, we were told the program that houses homeless veterans in dorm-style living at Orlando VA is also at capacity.

For wounded veterans, It is no secret that their personal struggle will only be beginning when they return home from war.  Even though the VA is opening an additional hospital in the Orlando area, a promising facility in Lake Nona, it is evident our resources to rehabilitate wounded veterans, both physically and mentally, are already under serious strain.  What happens when 30,000 troops come home looking for jobs and medical care?  If veterans continue to inundate the already maxed out federal programs, the future is uncertain at best.

The solution comes from being proactive and promoting awareness. On our side, we will continue to do what we can to keep this issue in the forefront of people’s minds. But there’s something you can do as well. Veterans need our support now more than ever. If you are interested in supporting your local VA, please visit http://www.orlando.va.gov/ for information on voluteerism and donations.