Homeless Veterans – History Repeating Itself?

There is a famous saying, going back over 3000 years:   “Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”   Our Country has a history of abandoning its veterans and the price in human misery among them has skyrocketed.   Ted Rall’s March 13 opinion column, “Suckered Again” said it best:  “Abandonment of Vets is a Military Tradition”.   The facts listed in the block below, although paraphrased, come from his column.   Use the link and read his remarkable piece.

He points out that most of the Revolutionary veterans died before pensions were issued more than 40 years after the war ended.  Even then, only indigent veterans were eligible.  The Civil War veterans received only a few hundred dollars total pension and by 1868, the New York Governor reported that thousands of homeless veterans could be found in that state.   Out of more than 300,000 wounded in World War I, only 47,000 claims were accepted.   The P.O.W.s of the Korean war were denied back pay for their time in captivity. 

So what kind of treatment are our veterans getting now?  

According to the VA there are 200,000 veterans sleeping on the street, in shelters or camping along creeks on any given night.   The bulk of them are from the Vietnam and Korean wars.    According to the latest homeless count available there were 750,000 total homeless in 2005.  That means our veterans make up 27.6 percent of the nations homeless.

According to the VA, there are a total of 17.2 million living war veterans from all wars, including 7.2 million from Vietnam and 3 million from Korea.   According to the Census Bureau, our U.S. population is 301 million.   Do the math: 

Veterans comprise 27.6 percent of the homeless , but only 5.7 percent of the U.S. population.  

Veterans are nearly 5 times as likely to be homeless than the rest of our population.

Something is dreadfully wrong.  

Here is what the VA says in their Homeless Overview:

About one-third of the adult homeless population have served their country in the Armed Services. On any given day, as many as 200,000 veterans (male and female) are living on the streets or in shelters, and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing

And here is how they explain away any relationship to military service:

Although many homeless veterans served in combat in Vietnam and suffer from PTSD, at this time, epidemiologic studies do not suggest that there is a causal connection between military service, service in Vietnam, or exposure to combat and homelessness among veterans.  Family background, access to support from family and friends, and various personal characteristics (rather than military service) seem to be the stronger indicators of risk of homelessness.

Now that is a bunch of bull hockey.  If that were true, the number of homeless veterans would be about 43,000 instead of 200,000.    Do the math.

The VA has continued to delay diagnosis and ultimately deny treatment for a wide range of military related war injuries, shock, stress, chemical and various syndromes.   Gulf War Syndrome – denied for 95 percent of applicants by an artificial 2 year cutoff date for symptoms.  There is a history of mistreatment since this country was born and it continues today.   Read Ted Rall’s paper for details.  

Note:  If you have noticed a difference in my figures from my earlier posts, it is because my earlier figures included peacetime veterans and the above figures include only war-time veterans. 

Oldtimer’s Comment:  Click For All homeless veterans articles


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