Stories implying that all veterans are ’broken’ in some way have pierced the public’s consciousness. The average American believes that the average veteran is highly likely to experience unemployment, low education, incarceration, homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.

Debunking misconceptions

These notions are largely misconceptions, but they are now embedded into our dialogue. As a result, veterans have become objects of pity rather than respect.

Earlier this year, the Veterans Civic Health Index—a report that shows veterans are more civically engaged than their civilian counterparts—refutes common misconceptions. The report found that most veterans are not broken, but rather they are devoted to a lifetime of service.

"While some are able to see through the negative stereotypes about veterans, the reality is that misconceptions can gravely jeopardize their reintegration experiences."

Veterans are more likely to be involved in their communities. On average they volunteer, vote in local elections, belong to local organizations and fix neighborhood problems. Because of their training and experience in the military, veterans are uniquely suited to make their communities stronger when given the opportunity.

Stigma as a hurdle

While some are able to see through the negative stereotypes about veterans, the reality is that misconceptions can gravely jeopardize their reintegration experiences. They can deter veterans from being hired or welcomed in school. Misconceptions can even deter them from even speaking about their service.

Nevertheless, today’s veterans are succeeding. They are more educated than ever. Veterans utilizing the GI Bill are completing degree programs at a rate on par with their counterparts. Women veterans are completing degree programs at even higher rates. Veteran unemployment is at an all time low—4.2 percent. And over the past several years, veterans have earned more than their counterparts in the workplace. Given these opportunities for success, the veteran homelessness rate is now around 8.6 percent.

We have the power to change the conversation. We can strip away the misconceptions. As the narrative changes, all veterans will be empowered to use their skills and leadership to serve here at home.