Saturday, November 30, 2013

From serving the homeland to no home: why?

Why are reporters still asking "why" veterans go homeless?
From serving the homeland to no home: why?
Times Press Wisconsin
Julie Belschner Times-Press
November 30, 2013

They’ve served their country. They’ve risked their lives to keep home, family and country safe. They are the best of the best.

So why, as most people prepare for Thanksgiving, are more than 50,000 veterans homeless? There is a mixed bag of reasons, many the same as homeless people in general – alcoholism, drug addiction, unemployment and divorce. But too many veterans also suffer from PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Veterans who have seen extensive combat stress and death are much more likely to suffer from PTSD, the Veterans Administration says.
read more here
It is all so easy to ask why this is happening to our veterans now, especially when not many people asked why it was happening to Vietnam veterans.

In 2011 the Department of Veterans Affairs published a report from the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans.

There is also a report from 2007 that shows how homeless veterans were regarded.

“We (the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) are the agents of a grateful society grateful for people who put on the uniform,” Nicholson said. “But we have challenges to take care of the many living veterans who are no different from the rest of the citizens of our country. We have veterans who have problems.”

This attitude of "no different" was a huge part of the problem. Another part of the problem was the simple fact there were less working for the VA with two wars creating more in need of services.

Since the launch of the Iraq war more than four years ago, the number of people charged with reviewing and approving veterans' disability claims has actually dropped. According to the American Federation of Government Employees, the VA employed 1,392 Veterans Service Representatives in June 2007 compared to 1,516 in January 2003.

In the same article was another part of the problems veterans faced, Dishonorable Discharges. It is one that a Fort Bragg solider knew all too well. Specialist James Eggemeyer was facing this.
Returning to Fort Bragg in April 2004, James was quickly discharged from the military. His experience in Iraq had changed his disposition. He started fighting with his captain, and was given "dishonourable discharge under honourable conditions", which allowed him to use services from Veterans Administration but denied him access to college tuition assistance or vocational training.

There were many, many more.
Approximately 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34% of the general adult male population. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless, and 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness during the course of a year (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 2006). 97% of those homeless veterans will be male (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2008).

Since nothing was really fixed when Vietnam veterans came home, as they died they were simply replaced by this generation of veterans being left behind.

So now there are less living on the streets and some people want to pretend it is a new problem our veterans face. It is far from new. It is just improved. The question is, what will it be like for them when another war comes and no one planned for more?

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