At the end of my final semester in grad school, I have noticeably trimmed back B&B content for the sake of focusing on my thesis and other school work. But when a piece of research jumps out at me, I feel compelled to write, as with my last post in February regarding college credits for military service members and veterans. This time is like that. Continue reading Hanging Around the Flagpole
This is the eighth post in the “In Between” series.
I started work last week for my summer internship as required by my graduate program. Sparing too many details for the sake of some limited anonymity, I’ve been brought on as part of a small team to kick off an initiative to recruit young veterans into a tech training and internship program and to also develop a better understanding of the young, post-9/11 veteran population in the Bay Area and other metropolitan locations.
The organization already targets underprivileged young adults, so the point came up naturally in a discussion as to why veterans as a group should receive additional attention within the scope of the existing program.
First of all, this is a 100% appropriate point. Misunderstanding and “kid gloves” are far too pervasive when dealing with reintegrating veterans into the civilian workforce. We end up asking questions about all the ways veterans differ from civilians. What makes them different? What kind of student or employee can we expect veterans to be? What concerns or problems should we be prepared for that are unique to veterans?
Earlier this week, David M. Kennedy, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University, visited Berkeley as this year’s guest lecturer in the Nimitz Memorial Lectureship series. Among other distinctions, Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1999 book Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War. You can read more about him here.
During his visit, Professor Kennedy was gracious enough to swing by the Goldman School of Public Policy and chat with a small group of us about the issue of a growing civil-military divide in the United States. The problem, as he sees it, presents three questions of concern (which I paraphrase—probably poorly—from handwritten notes):
- Does the force structure of today’s military affect national security decision-making in a negative way? (Speaking primarily here of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) structure and technology and how they widen the gap in a way that makes commitment of military forces easier than it perhaps should be.)
- Is the military, which draws personnel heavily from the low-income demographic, filling its ranks in fair and equitable ways? Or, perhaps a better way of phrasing it: is there equity in the recruitment of service members?
- Is the US military fiscally and demographically sustainable in the long run? (Professor Kennedy was especially keen on emphasizing the rapidly shrinking proportion of American 18-24 year olds who are even physically fit or competent enough to qualify for military service.)
Note: I want to credit Cassandra Bayer, Marta Galan, and Brett Webster. They were my amazing teammates for the capstone presentation in our Quantitative Methods class last fall. I came up with the topic of veteran suicides, and they did the real work of framing the topic in a statistical- and policy-oriented manner that I could never have done on my own. I mostly try to steer away from pilfering their excellent work here, but at least some of the ideas below are theirs.
This post was originally published here on January 11, 2016.
Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. This statistic is derived from a Veterans Affairs report published in 2012. It has been perpetuated by the news media, politicians, and social media, and it is the namesake and focus of numerous organizations. “22 a Day” has even spawned a handful of “awareness” fitness routines, including CrossFit WODs and yoga challenges.
Although she wasn’t the first journalist to challenge the efficacy and accuracy of the statistic, WaPo’s Michelle Ye He Lee fact-checked the figure early last year. Hers was followed by several similar articles, many of which drew the same conclusions I did upon first reading the 2012 VA report for context. Interestingly, the 2012 report is chock full of warnings and caveats about the incompleteness and potential problems with the figures it presents.
Here are my chief concerns with “22 a Day.”