WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Former U.S.
President George W. Bush on Sunday promoted a new initiative to help
veterans transition back to civilian life and aid in the treatment of
post-traumatic stress disorder.
The onetime commander-in-chief, who led the United States into war
in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, said he wants to highlight
the challenges facing service members returning from war zones, as
well as their families.
"I have a duty," Bush said in an interview that aired on Sunday on
ABC's "This Week."
"Obviously I get slightly emotional talking about our vets because I
have an emotional...," Bush said, trailing off.
"I'm in there with them," he added.
About 2.5 million U.S. service members have served in Iraq and
Afghanistan since 2001, according to the Department of Defense.
Troops have since left Iraq and are expected to wind down their
involvement in Afghanistan within the year.
More than 50,000 U.S. and coalition service members have been
wounded in more than a decade of war.
The Dallas-based Bush Institute, a public policy center founded in
2009 by the former president and his wife Laura, is working with a
coalition of government, nonprofits, private companies and
universities on the initiative, which also target ways to encourage
employers to recruit and retain veterans.
"We've got a problem, too many vets are unemployed," said Bush in
one of his few public appearances since leaving the White House.
"There's what we call a military-civilian divide."
unemployment rate for recent veterans remains high, at around 10
percent as of the end of 2013 compared to just above 7 percent for
The Bush Institute also plans to tackle PTSD, a condition thought to
affect more than 270,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The Veterans Affairs Department has awarded disability benefits to
more than 150,000 PTSD patients.
PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involves physical harm
or the threat of it, according to the National Institute of Mental
Bush Institute researchers expect to release materials this spring
on a study of the post-9/11 veteran population, including
suggestions on ways to best treat and help erase the stigma often
associated with the condition.
White House officials have pushed awareness efforts for veterans,
military personnel and their families through the Joining Forces
campaign, founded by Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden,
and first lady Michelle Obama.
(Reporting by Margaret Chadbourn; editing by Ros Krasny and Amanda