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Some Northern Va. vets disenfranchised with access to local services

There are approximately 173,000 veterans living in Northern Virginia and a total of about 75 local government, nonprofit, and for-profit veterans’ organizations servicing them.

But according to a new report, many of the area’s 36,000 post-9/11 veterans—including more than 16,000 living in Fairfax County—find the abundance of local services to be overly complex and sometimes difficult to access, calling for providers to create a better, more seamless web of services.

According to the report, “Supporting Our Region’s Veterans,” compiled by the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia in partnership with the United Way of the National Capital Area and Deloitte Consulting, post-9/11 veterans (Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans) are a unique veteran demographic.

According to the report, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been the “longest sustained U.S. military operations since the Vietnam era,” sending more than 2.2 million troops into battle and resulting in more than 6,600 deaths and 48,000 injuries as of December, 2012.

Due to a variety of factors such as better medical care and the unique characteristics of post-9/11 warfare, the report states these veterans represent the highest casualty ratio of wounded-to-killed in action in U.S. history.

Because of improvements in armor and emergency medicine, more veterans now survive their battlefield injuries than ever before, and as a result require greater lifetime care.

In addition to a variety of physical wounds, the report states post-9/11 veterans also struggle with many mental health conditions which can complicate the transition to civilian life. As of January 2008, as many as 31 percent of returning post-9/11 soldiers were identified as having some form of mental health issue, including an estimated 5,000 residing in Fairfax County.

“Northern Virginia is home to one of the most densely populated veteran communities in America,” said Eileen Ellsworth, president of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.

According to Laurie Neff, a former Marine who now is director of George Mason University’s Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers, Virginia is only the nation’s 12th most populous state but the 6th largest in the number of military veterans. She estimates that there are 850,000 veterans in the Commonwealth, with 10 percent of those residing in Fairfax County. “There are approximately 85,000 total veterans in Fairfax County,” she said. “That is the largest population by county in the state.”

Ellsworth said the recently released report was developed to gain a more sophisticated, data-driven understanding of support available to Northern Virginia’s veterans, as well as to provide the Community Foundation, United Way of the National Capital Area, and other local community-based organizations and philanthropists with the insights needed to strategically target and coordinate grant dollars toward the greatest needs. “By partnering with government and nonprofit organizations and collaborating with funders in the region, we are fostering relationships amongst service providers and helping veterans navigate the rich support services available to them in Northern Virginia,” she said.

The full report can be downloaded at: http://www.cfnova.org.

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