Elderly Americans are already protected from abuse and neglect, but American veterans, as veterans, have an extra layer of protection under the law as a protected class. However, that does not exempt them from abuse. Unfortunately, veterans are actually more at risk of abuse. Many factors play into this high risk of abuse among military veterans which only increases the urgency for nursing home reform.
Nursing Home Abuse Among Veterans
According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, 46% of living veterans are over the age of 65. This means that over the next few decades, as that rate holds steady, a large portion of nursing home and care facility residents will be veterans.
Veterans are subject to the same sexual, physical, and financial abuse as other elderly individuals, so all the same signs of abuse should be looked for and reported. However, the increased risk of abuse comes from the fact that veterans are much more likely to suffer from higher rates of mental health disorders and physical disabilities. Veterans also often lack good support systems and personal relationships with family and friends, and often struggle to function in civilian society after serving their country. All of these factors leave veterans extra vulnerable to abuse and neglect. In fact, the World Health Organization reported the characteristics that “increase the risk of becoming a victim of abuse include functional dependence/disability, poor physical health, cognitive impairment, poor mental health and low income.”
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that approximately 1 in 3 veterans, across all age groups, “have at minimum one diagnosable mental health disorder, including depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.” Additionally, a 2014 study found that “39.9% of U.S. veterans reported living with physical disabilities.” These numbers mean that, as veterans enter nursing homes, they are immediately at high risk of neglect and abuse.
Unfortunately, veteran abuse, like all abuse, is underreported. And without the close family and friends or personal caregivers that other elderly Americans often have, veterans lack advocates who can speak up for them in nursing home settings.
What You Can Do
As in all cases of abuse, the best thing you can do is look for signs of abuse – even amongst nursing home residents who are not your relatives or loved ones – and report them to the local Adult Protective Services! You can also donate to organizations like the Disabled American Veterans group who helps veterans with a wide variety of services, or you can be a volunteer at a Veterans Affairs facility where you can visit veterans who do not get regular visitors.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of elder abuse or neglect, call Gharibian Law (877-875-1119) today for a free consultation and the best legal representation.