A new survey suggests that nearly one in five veterans living in Virginia believe the year of COVID has been the most challenging non-combat year of their lives, a rate in line with national findings.

The survey by VeteranAddiction.org also found that about one in seven veterans turned more to alcohol in an effort to make it through the pandemic.

“For already vulnerable veterans, the social disruption caused by the pandemic exacerbated many pre-existing concerns,” the organization noted. “Those going through mental-health struggles are also at substantial risk of developing or relapsing into a substance-abuse disorder.”

The survey found that 19 percent of Virginia veterans reported that the year of COVID was their most stressful, a figure lower than three surrounding states (Maryland at 38 percent, North Carolina at 26 percent and Tennessee at 25 percent) but higher than that in West Virginia (14 percent). Nationally, the rate was 20 percent.

Those facing challenges are being asked to seek help.

“There are plenty of dedicated online resources. for veterans specifically, offering helpful coping mechanisms,” said Brittney Morse, a licensed advanced alcohol and drug counselor. “Interpersonal social and family relationships are also important – if the individual is struggling to reach out, these connections can help point them in the direction of expert medical advice.”

Nationally, the highest percentage of veterans who said the past year was the most challenging could be found in Oregon (43 percent), Arizona (38 percent), Wyoming (33 percent) and Delaware (31 percent). Those states with the lowest rates included Illinois and Missouri (7 percent), Nevada (8 percent) and Washington and Alabama (9 percent).

Broken down by gender, 21 percent of male veterans said the COVID era was the most challenging non-combat period of their lives, while 18 percent of female veterans said so.

For information, see the website at www.veteranaddiction.org.