Donbas veterans rehabilitation: Ukraine needs 'From service to new start' program

Author : Oleksiy Lipiridi

Source : 112 Ukraine

As of September 2017, 313,900 persons were granted the status of the Donbas combatant
13:00, 20 December 2017

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The need for additional education for the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) veterans was really needed after the first waves of demobilization. After all, many fighters had a necessity to search for a new way of life, to return to peaceful everyday life. As usual, the volunteer movement was the first to respond, with initiatives and assistance across the country, opening various educational programs, courses, etc. Only in 2016, the legal injustice on the status of war veterans was corrected by the governors when the right to free education for servicemen and other ATO participants was granted. By that time, there was the possibility of an out-of-competition application was only for combatants on the territory of other states.

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But we need to understand that the majority of ATO fighters are people who have already an education, so the real problem is not the need for higher or professional education. The real source of the problem is the post-traumatic syndrome. A large number of fighters have a great desire to change their lives. And these people desperately need help by providing new opportunities, because this is an important part of rehabilitation. In Western practice, in particular, in American, programs that stimulate the opening of one's own business for veterans are now becoming extremely relevant.

Related: Rehabilitation of Ukraine’s war veterans: Does anyone need this at all?

In August 2017, the United States had about 20.5 million veterans, while almost three-quarters of all veterans served during military conflicts. About half of those veterans belong to the able-bodied population (6.4% of the total number of the able-bodied population of the country). Therefore, the problem of their socio-economic adaptation, in particular through the creation of their own business in the United States, is an important issue of the return to civilian life. At the same time, about 12% of the total number of American veterans already have their own business. In addition, a quarter of the servicemen who served in Iraq and Afghanistan expressed their desire to start their own business. According to the Veteran-Owned Businesses and Their Owners, published in April 2017, 2.52 million US businesses (99.9% of which are small) belonged to veterans, accounting for 9.1% of the total.

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Today in the United States, a high number of ministries and federal agencies deal with the solution of the social and economic problems of veterans. Serving the needs of former military personnel is handled by the US Veterans Affairs Office, which has a budget of about $ 180 billion and 380,000 personnel. This state body coordinates its activities with the Ministry of Defense and the US Department of Health and Human Services. At the same time, the Ministry cooperates with specialized federal agencies within the framework of conducting separate policies of support for veterans. Responsibility for the development of small business veterans is assigned to the appropriate unit of the US Small Business Administration (SBA) - Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD). This body is responsible for maximizing the availability and usefulness of all SBA programs aimed at supporting veterans. Support for the creation of a veterans' own business is provided through a number of educational and financial instruments.

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First of all, the "Boots to Business" program, which allows veterans, the military and their families to gain basic knowledge of doing business. The program is organized according to the principles of public-private partnership and unites the efforts of the SBA, the US Department of Defense, Syracuse University and a number of public organizations. A consortium of universities, led by the Syracuse Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), is working on the preparation of training materials. In addition, with the support of the Veterans Business Development Office across the country, there are Veterans Business Support Centers that organize professional trainings, help create business plans and provide mentoring support. Educational initiatives in the field of entrepreneurship are also supported by the US Veterans Affairs Department, which pays for training courses offered by the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to create business plans, support exports and imports, aid with market analysis and so on. The educational opportunities can be used by veterans who plan to start their own business, as well as those veterans who already own business. It is also possible to retake high-level courses.

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Related: UNICEF: Over 100,000 children in eastern Ukraine could stay without drinking water

Ukraine is far from American scale, but it is necessary to adopt the systematic approach. After all, today state’s main emphasis is on traditional employment. On the other hand, there is a number of public initiatives on conducting appropriate courses, business trainings, business workshops, and etc. Continuation of Russian aggression in the east of Ukraine leads to a further increase in the number of demobilized ATO participants. According to the State Service of Ukraine for War Veterans Affairs and ATO participants, as of September 1, 2017, 313,900 persons were granted the status of a combatant. This indicator is steadily growing, since in January 2017 there were 278,0 thousand participants of military operations, that is, only in 8 months this number increased by 35,9 thousand persons. A whole social stratum has already been formed in Ukraine, which needs psychological rehabilitation and socio-economic adaptation. This requires uniting the efforts of the government, business, public and ATO veterans to mobilize limited resources and maximize the interests of all stakeholders, creating favorable conditions for the successful return of veterans to civilian life.

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