Veterans Fear Massive Job Loss and Increased Mental Health Issues Amid COVID-19 Pandemic


COVID-19 - Experts tell us, social distancing is our strongest life-saving tool when it comes to fighting the novel coronavirus, but for veterans, social distancing isn't as easy as it may be for others. Along with social distancing, many are facing sudden job loss and loss of wages during this pandemic, creating the "perfect storm" for a mental health crisis in our veteran's community.

A large number of veterans are at risk of becoming unemployed as a result of the pandemic, especially the younger generation of veterans. This leads us to believe that the pandemic has immediate and potentially long-term adverse effects on the mental health of veterans, considering the indirect casual relationship between financial instability and suicide in the veteran's community.

According to a newly released report from the Bob Woodruff Foundation 14% of veterans are working in the most at-risk industries facing lay-offs. The report detailed five industries, but the UVC believes there is an even greater risk. Unions representing workers are seeing massive lay-offs as a result of the virus. In some cases, whole construction industries are going from 100% employment to 80% unemployment overnight.

"When we're talking about laying off, furloughing, and firing hundreds of thousands of veteran workers, we need to recognize that this will undoubtedly cause a serious mental health crisis and potentially an uptick in veteran suicide." Will Attig, Executive Director of the Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO, went on to say, "I believe the veteran's community has dark days ahead, but we must do what we can to support every veteran worker."

According to The Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly two million veterans use VHA medical facilities to receive care for some kind of mental illness. Fears of abnormal mental health care, lack of internet accessibility, and shortages in key staffing areas have the community on alarm. 

"The majority of the VA's nearly 50 thousand vacancies are within the Veterans Health Administration, and the number one vacant clinical position across the system is for psychiatrists," said Brett Copeland, executive director of the Veterans Health Policy Institute. "Secretary Wilkie's failure to focus on hiring means that even if telemental health services were running perfectly, the VA wouldn't have the people to meet the demand."

Veterans are taking their own lives at a staggering rate of almost twenty per day; the large majority of these veterans do not utilize mental health services. Social distancing risks increasing that rate because of the isolation that often comes along with distancing yourself from others for an extended period of time. 

The Union Veterans Council knows that millions of American workers, many being vets, are finding themselves in situations where no one has their back or the answers they need. We want every worker to know that the informational resources of the AFL-CIO are available whether you're in a union or not. The Union Veterans Council is building a webpage to provide support for veteran workers as well as a series of educational town halls to teach coping skills and create structure.

If you or someone you know has questions about resources for workers visit the AFL-CIO COVID-19 Pandemic Resources page HERE

If you are a veteran in crisis or know a veteran in crisis: Dial 1-800-273-8255 Press 1 to talk to someone Or: Send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder Or: Visit  for additional resources.