As President Obama begins to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan, most Americans continue to say that government support for troops returning from war is falling short.
The public remains divided over whether the American people give enough support to soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opinions on this tilt more negative, however, among the families of those who have served in the military since the 9/11 terror attacks.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 15-19 among 1,502 adults, finds that the government gets better marks for supporting returning troops than it did in 2007, amid the scandal over military medical care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, or a year later.
Nonetheless, just 32% say the government gives enough support to soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly twice as many (62%) say the government does not provide enough support for the returning troops. In 2007 and 2008, even fewer said the government was providing adequate support for the troops (21% in 2007, 22% in 2008).
The public is split in its views of whether the American people give enough support for returning troops – 47% say they do, while 49% disagree. These views are little changed from 2007 or 2008. However, a majority (58%) of those in households with veterans who have served since the 9/11 attacks say the American people do not give enough supports to the returning troops. Far fewer (38%) say the American people have given enough support to the troops.
More See Gov’t Falling Short on Vets’ Finances, PTSD
When people who say the government has not provided enough support for returning troops are asked for specific problems, nearly as many cite a lack of help with financial issues (37%) as problems with medical care (42%). Three years ago, medical care was the dominant concern, mentioned by half of those who answered the question (50%). About a quarter (27%) cited financial issues.
Among financial concerns cited, 19% say the government is not doing enough to address the lack of jobs or preparation for work among returning soldiers. In February 2008, 12% cited these concerns.
About a third (34%) of those who say the government has not done enough for returning troops point to mental health issues as the biggest area of concern; that is unchanged from 2008. However, specific mentions of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have doubled – from 5% to 11%.
Partisan Agreement on Troop Support
Following media revelations in early 2007 about poor medical care in government facilities given to veterans of the ongoing wars, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say the government was not doing enough for returning troops (81% vs. 58%).
Fewer Democrats and independents fault the government’s support for returning troops today, while Republicans’ views are little changed. In the new survey, there are no significant differences among partisans on this question: 61% of Republicans, 63% of Democrats and 64% of independents say the government does not give enough support to returning solders. There also are no significant partisan differences in views of public support for returning troops.
Women are somewhat more likely than men to say that both the American people and the government do not give enough support to returning troops. About two-thirds of women (67%) say the government does not provide enough support, compared with 57% of men. More than half of women (54%) say the American people do not give enough support to these veterans, compared with 43% of men.