In this economic climate, paying bills and finding a job are difficult for everyone. The situation is worse for wounded veterans who often face ongoing mental and physical health problems.
A recent survey revealed that more wounded veterans than ever before were reporting not enough money to cover their expenses. According to the Wounded Warrior Project’s Annual Warrior Survey, 6 out of 10 veterans said that they did not have the money to pay their bills in the last 12 months. This is up from 42 percent the year before.
Tom Kastner is the vice president for financial wellness of Wounded Warrior Project. He says, “We are getting feedback more and more from ‘warriors’ that they find it increasingly difficult to meet their financial obligations.”
Like everyone else, wounded vets feel the effects of inflation. Financial strain was primarily attributed to the cost of food and other everyday items. This is on top of the struggle to overcome food insecurity. Nearly two-thirds of wounded veterans, or 38.7%, met the criteria for food insecurity, which is defined as having insufficient food to live an active and healthy lifestyle. The survey revealed that this figure was almost four times greater than the 10,2% in the U.S. population.
Wounded Warrior project is to help wounded veterans (called “warriors by the non-profit) through their transition to civilian life. It offers services for mental health, financial wellness, and career counseling, as well as peer connections. This survey is the most comprehensive survey on post-9/11 injured veterans and represents more than 165,000 warriors.
Below are some additional key findings of the February report.
Cash flow and debt are new challenges
The study revealed that wounded veterans are under more financial stress than ever before. Other reasons for financial strain include:
You are working but you don’t make enough money (26.8%).
Family obligations (26.6%).
Medical Bills (6,1%)
More than half (56.8%) of respondents reported having at least $20,000 in nonmortgage debt. This includes credit card debts, auto loans, and personal loans. Over half of respondents (56.8%), reported having at least $20,000. These trends have been seen in previous surveys. However, Kastner points out that debt combined with a lack of money is an issue.
He says, “Debt has been around for a long time, but we are now hearing, ‘I’m in debt but can’t afford to pay my bills as I did before’.” Over 43% said that they were not confident they would be able to cover an emergency $1,000 expense.
A bright spot: lower unemployment
The unemployment rate was down. In 2022 the share of warriors who were unemployed dropped from more than 13% to just 6.8%. Warriors still experience a higher rate of unemployment than both the general public (3.7%) and veterans (2.4% %).
According to unemployed veterans, the biggest obstacles to employment are mental illness or psychological distress. This is followed by difficulties in translating skills from military to civilian work and lack of education.
According to Kastner, the Wounded Warrior Project provides financial and emergency assistance, as well long-term education. It also helps veterans file for veteran benefits and get them.
The survey results show that more education and assistance is needed to help wounded veterans overcome their financial difficulties.
Kastner: “We need to be more aware of the financial preparedness of our soldiers.”