On October 31, 2019, President Trump signed a proclamation designating November 2019 as National Veterans and Military Families Month. According to the most recent Census statistics, there are over 18 million veterans in the United States. Between relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and others, most of us know at least one person who has served.
The annual Veterans Day holiday was also celebrated around the country earlier this week on November 11, 2019. What we now know as Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and marked the anniversary of the end of World War I. It was first recognized in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson and was made a holiday in 1938.
It should be understood that National Veterans and Military Families Month and the Veterans Day holiday are not why we celebrate – they’re reminders. But these should also serve as times to think about the challenges that those who have served face after returning home.
Finding a civilian job and reconnecting with loved ones after being away are big enough challenges on their own, but veterans also often struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addiction, including gambling addiction. Did you know that gambling addiction is treatable?
Why Veterans are at Risk for Gambling Addiction
Prevalence research indicates that veterans and active military members are twice as likely to develop a gambling addiction than the general population. Did you know that there are nearly 3,000 slot machines on overseas military bases?
It is estimated that as many as 56,000 active duty personnel meet the criteria for problem gambling! Life is different when you’re an active military member. Many of the conveniences we’re used to in everyday civilian life, like an abundance of entertainment choices and relatively flexible schedules, don’t apply. On-base slot machines or even a simple deck of cards make it easy to engage in gambling when there may not be much else to do.
The inclusion of “military families” in the president’s proclamation is an important addition, since the challenges faced by veterans upon returning home also reflect on family members and friends. Problem gambling in particular is known to affect 8-10 people in addition to the gambler.
Gambling can be a safe recreational activity for most adults. But for those who lose the ability to control their betting activity, the results are devastating: from financial woes to anxiety, depression, relationship troubles, and even suicidal ideation. On top of that, gambling addiction is still widely misunderstood. Unfortunately, stigma persists, and the majority of those who are suffering don’t reach out for help as a result.
How You Can Serve Those Who Have Served
Veterans deserve to know that help and hope are available for gambling addiction. In the State of Florida, services and supports for problem gambling can be sourced any time of day or night through the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine. Show your support for veterans and others suffering from problem gambling by remembering and sharing the HelpLine!
Another important way to support veterans who struggle with gambling addiction is to support the GAP Act, a bipartisan effort that requires the Department of Defense to implement policies and programs, including screening, to combat problem gambling. You can show your support today by visiting ncpgambling.org/gap-act to sign the NCPG’s NDAA Support Letter.
Let’s make National Veterans and Military Families Month a reminder to serve those who have served our country and their loved ones, because they may need our help, too. If you or someone you know may be suffering from gambling addiction, call Florida’s 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). The HelpLine can also be reached by texting to 321-978-0555, starting a LiveChat at gamblinghelp.org, and reaching out to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling on social media. It’s also available for loved ones!
 Bushatz, Amy. “President Trump Proclaims November National Veterans and Military Families Month.” Military.com, 1 Nov. 2019, www.military.com/military-family-appreciation-month/president-proclaims-november-as-military-family-month.html.
 “VETERAN STATUS – 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.” American FactFinder – Results, United States Census Bureau, 5 Oct. 2010, factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF.
 Lange, Katie. “5 Facts to Know About Veterans Day.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, 5 Nov. 2018, www.defense. gov/explore/story/article/1675470/5-facts-to-know-about-veterans-day/.
 “History of Veterans Day.” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 Mar. 2006, www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp.
 Shane, Leo. “Why Gambling Addiction among Active-Duty Troops May Pose National Security Risks.” Military Times, 10 July 2019, www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/07/09/gambling-addiction-remains-a-troubling- problem-among-active-duty-troops-advocates-warn/.