WASHINGTON — Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.
The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.
In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.
Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.
VA offers a wide array of special programs and initiatives specifically designed to help homeless veterans live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. In fact,VA is the only Federal agency that provides substantial hands-on assistance directly to homeless persons. Although limited to veterans and their dependents, VA’s major homeless-specific programs constitute the largest integrated network of homeless treatment and assistance services in the country.
VA’s specialized homeless veterans treatment programs have grown and developed since they were first authorized in 1987. The programs strive to offer a continuum of services that include:
- aggressive outreach to those veterans living on streets and in shelters who otherwise would not seek assistance;
- clinical assessment and referral to needed medical treatment for physical and psychiatric disorders, including substance abuse;
- long-term sheltered transitional assistance, case management, and rehabilitation;
- employment assistance and linkage with available income supports; and
- supported permanent housing.
If the existing Veterans Services was successful, there wouldn’t be 1 veteran for every 4 homeless persons accounted for. You know, accounted for are the operative words here. I took the liberty of re-printing a piece of an Op-Ed by David W. Gorman, Washington HQ Executive Director, of Disabled American Veterans:
Here’s the truth about the human cost borne by the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as shown by data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Of the 1.5 million troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 720,000 (48%) are now veterans in the civilian population. Of these, 202,000 have filed claims for VA disability benefits. The VA granted benefits in more than 90% of the cases processed so far, and will grant more upon appeal or presentation of additional evidence. In other words, real statistics show that one out of four veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan is disabled in military service. This should shock no one as troops return to the war zones for their third, fourth, and now fifth tours of combat duty.
Why is the US Government so adept at breaking things and so incompetent at fixing what it broke. This is a basic premise for civilizations. Responsibility for actions and accountability to your population. This appears to be lost on this American Government. Take what it can. Use it until it breaks. Throw it away and find another. That’s not how it is supposed to work. That is childish, spoiled bully thinking. We reap what we sow. We have sown a sick system. We need to take responsibility for our own actions before we can expect the same from those we elect. Elect we must.
All BossKitty asks is that you pay close attention to the decision you make that will determine the fate of our world. These homeless veterans all have something in common. They trusted the American Government system. They put themselves in harms way at the order of the government. The government puts a complicated system in place that works OK only if you can navigate it. Every chance it gets, the government makes it nearly impossible to keep up with the human destruction it has wrought. These homeless veterans are now fighting to survive at home.