We caught up with Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth to talk about the obstacles veterans are facing in 2015, and the opportunities available to help them thrive after reintegration.

What’s the biggest issue facing military veterans and their families today?

Service members and their families face a variety of challenges, but the biggest challenge that they face every day is how to remain ready for whatever our country asks of them.

They work hard to make successful transitions to civilian life, as they work to find steady employment in meaningful jobs that support their families. They also work to deal with any lasting effects of wartime separations and deployments. In many ways, both service members and veterans want the same things as civilian families: economic and emotional stability, through meaningful employment, quality healthcare options and supportive community structures.

What are the best ways for these families to gain the support that they need?

Veterans and their families tend to make careful choices about where to live, whether or not to pursue postsecondary training or degrees and how to seek employment. As members of communities in which these families live, we can do much to offer them support, from inviting them to participate in community and social groups to assisting with professional networking and simply be welcoming toward military-affiliated families.

"Veterans and their families have many skills and valuable experiences that offer significant benefits to our communities."

Veterans and their families have many skills and valuable experiences that offer significant benefits to our communities. It’s important to recognize this not just during Veterans Day celebrations, but throughout the year as well.

How important is higher education to the quality of life for a military veteran and their family?

There is considerable evidence that higher education plays a very important role in quality of life in general. Career earnings rise substantially with every degree received. For veterans and their families, higher education offers an opportunity for not only new career prospects but also offers them a chance to gradually transition to civilian life, joining many other students who are building their futures as well. The Veterans Administration has awarded more than 1.2 million students and their educational institutions substantial educational support through the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.

What are some of the biggest challenges that military spouses and children face?

As spouses and children of veterans, they have very limited opportunities to receive assistance from the Veterans Administration. Thus, if they do experience difficulties as a result of their exposure to wartime deployments, they must rely on local support systems, which may or may not be well prepared to serve them.

While their partners are in the military, spouses often experience reduced career opportunities or career advancement, which may not only be difficult to recover from, but can have economic impact on the family as well. Children may experience consequences of exposure to parents’ deployments for prolonged periods of time, although research has not yet fully addressed this issue. Continued study of these issues is important, so that the most urgent needs and effective responses can be identified and implemented to support these very important families in the communities where they live.