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Starbucks Gives $30 Million to Help Veterans With PTSD

Money will go for PTSD research, job training.

The head of the global Starbucks coffee company has announced that he’ll donate $30 million for research to benefit veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. The money will also go to provide job training.

It is not the first investment Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has made to help military veterans with conditions that plague them at alarmingly high rates, such as PTSD and joblessness. This time, Schultz told CBS News that the country can do more — and business can do more — to help those who risked their lives in battles abroad.

“The truth of the matter is, and I say this with respect, [that] more often than not, the government does … a much better job of sending people to war than they do bringing them home,” Schultz told CBS’ Scott Pelley on the March 19 anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Iraq.

“These young men and women who are coming home from multiple deployments are not coming home to a parade. They’re not coming home to a celebration,” Schultz said. “They’re coming home to an American public that really doesn’t understand, and never embraced, what these people have done.”

Schultz said he’s concerned that, with the troop wind-down in Afghanistan, the American public is not addressing the significant needs of war veterans.

“Depending on whom you’re talking to, 20, 30, 40 percent of the 2 million people who have served are coming back with some kind of brain trauma or PTSD,” Schultz said. “So we’re going to fund the opportunity for significant research and for medical practitioners and science to understand the disease and, ultimately, hopefully, come up with … a level of remedy.”

Considerable attention has recently focused on undiagnosed PTSD sufferers, including residents of high-crime neighborhoods and the children of veterans, who may suffer the condition at rates of up to 30%, according to USC professor of social work Ron Avi Astor. He studied 30,000 California high school students and found one in four military kids had considered suicide.

Five Symptoms of PTSD:

  • Reliving the trauma through intrusive thoughts or nightmares
  • Emotional numbness
  • Memory loss
  • Intense feelings of anger, guilt, worry, hopelessness
  • Avoidance of reminders of the trauma

Because PTSD colors a veteran’s world, it’s inseparable from the difficulties of finding a job after discharge, experts say.

The Starbucks gift for PTSD research comes after news earlier in March that the unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans remains markedly higher than for civilians.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate is 1.6 percentage points higher for post-9/11 veterans than for civilians. Those post 9/11 veterans had an unemployment rate last year of 9 percent, down from 9.9 percent from the prior year. More startling are the jobless rates for the youngest veterans.

According to the nonprofit Call of Duty Endowment, an Arlington, Va., non-profit that supports groups preparing vets for work, civilians age 20 to 24 have an unemployment rate of 14.3% versus veterans of the same age with an unemployment rate of 21.4%.

“There is still much work to be done for our nation’s youngest veterans,” said James Jones, co-chairman of Call of Duty Endowment. “These brave young men and women bring tremendous value to the workplace and it is the job of executives and hiring managers alike to promote their worth and eradicate the still-evident discrepancy in employment rates.”

According to the Huffington Post, research by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economists last year found that veterans deployed overseas for prolonged periods struggled to find work because their military skills didn’t apply back home, and because of war trauma.

The Veterans Affairs agency estimates that post-traumatic stress disorder affects 10 percent 20 percent of the men and women returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. While the VA spends an estimated $500 million a year treating victims of PTSD, it spends very little on their children, the USC professor told CBS News.

Starbucks’ Schultz thinks a comprehensive vehicle for training vets for new jobs is critical. But he told CBS that veterans hold singular skills already — including management experience — that can’t be learned in an MBA program. He added, “They’re extraordinarily valuable to any business, any institution, any enterprise.”

Last fall, in the days before Veterans Day, Schultz committed to hiring 10,000 veterans and their spouses, saying they would not necessarily be among the more than 200,000 employees who don the green apron at Starbucks shops. Schultz said the vets might hold a variety of management, design or strategy positions.

For more on PTSD: //www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp

 

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