Raymond Kelley on the most pressing issues veterans face today

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As America takes a moment to recognize the sacrifices of veterans, AOL.com is diving deeper into the issues veterans face after deployment. Raymond Kelley, Director of VFW's National Legislative Service, is sharing his expert opinion on the most pressing problems America's veterans face today.

Kelley is also a strong supporter of #DayForTheBrave. #DayForTheBrave is the first national veteran-focused day of giving, a day to show U.S. troops and veterans appreciation and respect. Around 200 veterans organizations -- including the Wounded Warrior Project, the USO and the Fisher House -- will be working together to raise more than $1 million in just 24 hours for troops. You too can get involved here.

SEE ALSO: BJ Ganem on his experiences during the Iraq War​

AOL.com: What is the most pressing issue facing our youngest generation of veterans that's different from what earlier generations of veterans faced?

Kelley: The most pressing issue for latest generation of veterans is the same as it has been for every generation –- transition. However, the factors that make transition difficult have shifted. The civilian workforce has changed dramatically since the last sustained war. The United States in no longer a manufacturing giant, instead we have become a tech and service provider. Because the job market has changed, the level and specificity of training has increased. This means veterans will need to spend more time in post-military training before starting their civilian careers.



AOL.com: How have the rise of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries impacted veterans, and what can and should be done to improve treatment?

Kelley: PTSD and traumatic brain injuries are commonly called the signature wounds of the post-9/11 era. Although service members from every war were exposed to these injuries, it is only recently that we have begun to recognize how serious and devastating they can be. Mental wounds are often a main contributing factor to the reintegration problems many returning veterans face, including isolation from friends and family, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness and suicide.

To address these problems, we must continue to eliminate any remaining negative stigma associated with seeking help. This includes both in the veterans community, and in the military community where many still believe that a mental health injury could threaten their careers. When service members and veterans do seek help, it must be there for them. This means that they must be provided with timely access to effective treatments that focus on recovery and reintegration. To do this, we must continue to invest in training and hiring enough mental health providers to meet the demand for care, as well as research to identify and improve available therapies.

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Most iconic images of war through history
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Raymond Kelley on the most pressing issues veterans face today
As heavy smoke rolls out of the stricken USS West Virginia, a small boat rescues a crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941 during World War II. Two men can be seen on the superstructure, upper center. The mast of the USS Tennessee is beyond the burning West Virginia. (AP Photo)
A visitor walks past 'Robert Capa 'Soldier taking cover at Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6th 1944' during the 'Life. I grandi fotografi' (Life. The great photographers) exhibition at the auditorium on April 30, 2013 in Rome. The exhibition showing some 150 pictures taken from 1936 when the US magazine Life magazine premiered will be open from May, 1 to August 4, 2013. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY CREDIT OF THE ARTIST, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945. Strategically located only 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest, most famous battles of World War II against Japan. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal)
In this photo provided by the U.S. navy, a sailor and a nurse kiss passionately in Manhattan's Times Square, as New York City celebrates the end of World War II, on August 14, 1945. The celebration followed the official announcement that Japan had accepted the terms of Potsdam and surrendered. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy/Victor Jorgensen)
Pfc. Clarence K. Ayers of Evansville, Ind., reads the news of V-E Day as newly arrived German prisoners stand of a New York City pier, May 8, 1945. (AP Photo/John Rooney)
The torch of the Statue of Liberty blazes in the night as the lights are turned on once again at the island in New York Harbor, May 8, 1945, V-E Day, on which the official announcement of the unconditional surrender of Germany was proclaimed. Two service men stand guard at the base of the statue. (AP Photo/Tom Fitzsimmons)
The first bombs from the first a squadron over a 21 sq. mile area west of the Naktong River, South Korea on August 16, 1950 where North Korean troops were believed massing for an all-out assault on the American lines. 98 B-29âs dropped more than 850 tons of bombs on the area. A salovo of 500-pound bombs leave the bomb bay of a B-29 headed for communist-controlled territory below. The superforts smacked a 21 sq. mile area where Army said as many as 40, 000 Red troops were gathered first. (AP Photo)
Invasion of Inchon, September 15, 1950, Korean War, Washington, National Archives. (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)
This view shows a command post somewhere in South Korea on July 12, 1950 as American soldiers keep on the alert with their straw covered camouflaged weapons carrier. (AP Photo/Charles P. Gorry)
In this image provided by the U.S. Army, Koreans carry liberated American prisoners down from the hills northeast of Seoul after their location by the 25th Division tanks, April 2, 1951. Carried in foreground is PFC. Ellis Wadley of Leachville, Ark., who had been held captive since New Year's Day. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)
The Reverend Thich Quang Duc, a 73-year-old Buddhist monk, is soaked in petrol before setting fire to himself and burning to death in front of thousands of onlookers at a main highway intersection in Saigon, Vietnam, June 11, 1963. He had previously announced that he would commit suicide in protest against what he called government persecution of Buddhists. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne).
In this April 10, 1965, file photo, made by Associated Press correspondent Peter Arnett, newly-landed U.S. Marines make their way through the sands of Red Beach at Da Nang, Vietnam on their way to reinforce the air base as South Vietnamese Rangers battled guerrillas about three miles south of the beach. (AP Photo/Peter Arnett, File)
In this March 1965 file photo shot by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas, hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into the tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, Vietnam, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)
The sun breaks through the dense jungle foliage around the embattled town of Binh Gia, 40 miles east of Saigon, in early January 1965, as South Vietnamese troops, apparently joined by U.S. advisers, rest after a cold, damp and tense night of waiting in an ambush position for a Viet Cong attack that didn't come. One hour later, as the possibility of an overnight attack by the Viet Cong disappeared, the troops moved out for another long, hot day hunting the elusive communist guerrillas in the jungles. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)
Pfc. Michael Row of Hyattsville, Md., a medic wounded by a grazing wound to the head, crouches along a treeline with other members of his U.S. 1st Cavalry Division unit while under intense North Vietnamese fire in March 1967, near Bong Son, along the South Vietnamese coast. Despite his own wound and incoming fire, Row scrambled to treat fellow wounded. One member of the unit said "He seemed to be everywhere." In background, a sargeant commands a reconnaissance team of the 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry. (AP Photo/Dana Stone)
The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter in War Zone C, Vietnam, May 14, 1966. (AP Photo/Henri Huet)
FILE - In this Feb. 1, 1968 file photo, Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, South Vietnamese chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong official Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon street early in the Tet Offensive. Photographer Eddie Adams reported that after the shooting, Loan approached him and said, âThey killed many of my people, and yours too,â then walked away. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File)
Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four. (AP Photo/John Filo)
FILE - In this Dec. 18, 1971 file photo, guerrillas in Dacca, Bangladesh use bayonets to torture and kill four men suspected of collaborating with Pakistani militiamen who had been accused of murder, rape and looting during months of civil war. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, Michel Laurent, File)
FILE - In this June 8, 1972, file photo, 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, runs with her brothers and cousins, followed by South Vietnamese forces, down Route 1 near Trang Bang after a South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on its own troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. In late September 2015, Phuc, 52, began a series of laser treatments at the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute to smooth and soften the pale, thick scar tissue that she has endured for more than 40 years. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
Released prisoner of war Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm is greeted by his family at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., as he returns home from the Vietnam War, March 17, 1973. In the lead is Stirm's daughter Lori, 15; followed by son Robert, 14; daughter Cynthia, 11; wife Loretta and son Roger, 12. (AP Photo/Sal Veder)
The sky lights up as the British frigate HMS Antelope explodes in San Carlos Bay in the Falkland Islands, May 25, 1982. The 10-week Falklands War killed 712 Argentines, 255 Britons and three islanders. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver)
FILE - In this June 5, 1989 file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Cangan Blvd. in Tiananmen Square. The man, calling for an end to the recent violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way. The Chinese government crushed a student-led demonstration for democratic reform and against government corruption, killing hundreds, or perhaps thousands of demonstrators in the strongest anti-government protest since the 1949 revolution. Ironically, the name Tiananmen means "Gate of Heavenly Peace". (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 1992 file photo, a father's hands press against the window of a bus carrying his tearful son and wife to safety from the besieged city of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. More than 1,000 women, children and the elderly who had endured months of seige were allowed to leave the city on Red Cross buses, breaking apart many families. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours, File)
Plumes of smoke pour from the World Trade Center buildings in New York Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Planes crashed into the upper floors of both World Trade Center towers minutes apart Tuesday in a horrific scene of explosions and fires that lead to the collapse of the 110-story buildings. The Empire State building is seen in the foreground. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)
A person falls from the north tower of New York's World Trade Center in this Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, after terrorists crashed two hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and brought down the twin 110-story towers. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File
Firefighters make their way through the rubble after two airliners crashed into the World Trade Center in New York bringing down the landmark buildings Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Shawn Baldwin)
This 11 September 2001 file photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. The woman was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
A British Royal Marine from 42 Commando fires a Milan wire-guided missile at an Iraqi position on the Al Faw peninsula, southern Iraq, Friday, March 21, 2003. (AP Photo/Jon Mills, pool)
A U.S. Marine watches a statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled in Firdaus Square, in downtown Bagdhad in this April 9, 2003 file photo. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
In this May 1, 2003 file photo, President George W. Bush speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast. As slogans go, President Barack Obama's promise of the "light of a new day" in Afghanistan isn't as catchy as the "Mission Accomplished" banner that hung across the USS Abraham Lincoln the day President George W. Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
FILE - This late 2003 file image obtained by The Associated Press shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him, at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. (AP Photo, File)
Captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein undergoes medical examinations in Baghdad in this Dec. 14, 2003 file photo, in this image from television. (AP Photo/US Military via APTN, File)
FILE - In this March 31, 2004 file photo, Iraqis chant anti-American slogans as charred bodies hang from a bridge over the Euphrates River in Fallujah, west of Baghdad. The private security company Blackwater USA triggered a major battle in the Iraq war in 2004 by sending an unprepared team of guards into the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, a move that led to their horrific deaths and a violent response by U.S. forces, according to a congressional report. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, FIle)
DEH AFGHAN, AFGHANISTAN - JUNE 27: Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion 4th Infantry Regiment do morning exercises at a U.S. base at Deh Afghan June 27, 2006 in the Zabul province of southern Afghanistan. The troops are participating in Operation Mountain Thrust against Taliban fighters across southern Afghanistan. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
AFGHANISTAN PAKISTAN BORDER, AFGHANISTAN - OCTOBER 20: An American soldier holds a U.S. Army hand grenade on which a soldier wrote 'One free trip to Allah' while at an observation post in the Paktika province of Afghanistan Oct. 20, 2006 overlooking the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The outpost, only 800 meters from the Pakistan, is frequently attacked by Taliban forces, many of whom cross over from the South Waziristan tribal area of Pakistan, according to American soldiers. Most Taliban believe they are fighting a holy war or 'jihad' against non-Muslims in Afghanistan, and those who die in jihad are promised an eternity in paradise. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, PAKTIKA - OCTOBER 15: US Army soldiers in the 1/501st of the 25th Infantry Division shield their eyes from the powerful rotor wash of a Chinook cargo helicopter as they are picked up from a mission October 15, 2009 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Soldiers of the 1/501 scoured the Afghan countryside near the Pakistani border on a two-day mission into a tense part of Paktika province, an that American soldiers had not patroled for over three years. The troops were looking for suspected Taliban weapons stores and hideouts. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
In this May 1, 2011 file image released by the White House and digitally altered by the source to diffuse the paper in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/The White House, Pete Souza, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2012 file photo, a Syrian man cries while holding the body of his son near Dar El Shifa hospital in Aleppo, Syria. The boy was killed by the Syrian army. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo, FIle)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - JUNE 09: An injured Syrian man is carried on a stretcher by emergency staff after a barrel bomb attack dropped by Syrian regime forces on a bakery in Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria on June 09, 2015. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Syrian refugee carries a baby over the broken border fence into Turkey after breaking the border fence and crossing from Syria in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Sunday, June 14, 2015. The mass displacement of Syrians across the border into Turkey comes as Kurdish fighters and Islamic extremists clashed in nearby city of Tal Abyad. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of a migrant child after a number of migrants died and a smaller number were reported missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized, near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/DHA)
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AOL.com: How serious are the issues with the VA hospital backlogs and health care for vets? Has the situation improved at all since the problem was first reported on?

Kelley: The VA health care access crisis is very serious. Years of underfunding and mismanagement has rendered the VA health care system unable to meet its obligation to the brave men and women who have worn our nation's uniform. While transformative efforts currently underway at the VA and recent congressional action has helped to alleviate access issues that plague the VA health care system, we still have a lot of work to do. To ensure we provide veterans high-quality and accessible health care we must seamlessly combine the capabilities of the VA health care system with public and private health care providers in each community. Other needed reforms include redesigning the systems and procedures by which veterans access their health care, realigning VA's resources to match its mission and ensuring VA's culture is accountable to veterans.

AOL.com: What are the biggest hurdles veterans, especially younger ones, are facing in the job market today?

Kelley: While skills mismatch is always a major hurdle, veterans have a critical tool to overcome it through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Unfortunately, in speaking with veterans, finding credible resources in the community is a much more daunting task. Every week it seems that someone is developing a new jobs portal that promises to be the newest cutting-edge fix-all for veteran unemployment. But surprise, this is never the case.

If you're serious about finding a job in your community, there is already a nationwide network of in-person advocates in your community that you can find though the Department of Labor. These advocates offer free face-to-face support at American Jobs Centers to help you not only identify jobs that will work for you, but also find training programs to close skills gaps for the career you really want. I know this network works, since I just hired yet another veteran to join the VFW team through my local American Jobs Center.


AOL.com: What should our elected officials and lawmakers be doing to solve all of these problems?

Kelley: Veterans issues are not partisan, so first and foremost, Congress needs to work together to solve problems that are specific to veterans. Caring for veterans is a cost of war and Congress must realize that funding for veterans cannot end when the wars are over. So, first, adequate funding to support all the health care and transition support that veterans need to reintegrate back into civilian life is critical. Specifically, Congress must increase funding for direct health care. When veterans can receive timely and quality health care –- including mental health care –- their transition becomes more seamless.

VA hospitals are on average more than 60 years old. Congress must dedicate funding to improve VA's infrastructure. Congress must protect and maintain the Post-9/11 GI Bill and continue to work with states to improve transferability of military skills.
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