The VA tells us that most of the homeless vets are not homeless due to military related causes. That can’t be true. Veterans are 4 times as likely to be homeless as the rest of the population in this country. Vets make up 8.9 % of our population but 30-40 percent of the homeless. The statistics are there folks. So why are veterans homeless?
Many of the vets are living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and many are living with alcohol and drug substance abuse that they acquired while in the military. These problems have led to an inability to hold jobs and to maintain family relationships. Soon jobs are lost and support from family dissolves. Many come out of the military to find they have no homes, no marriage, no family, no jobs and no help. No help for any of these situations from the VA and nothing special from the rest of us either.
When they also come out with PTSD compounded with alcohol or drug problems, they soon lose any of these things that were there when they first came home. If they had a spouse, he/she leaves and the children go with them. If they had a job, they lose it. If they had a home, there is nothing there to pay the rent or mortgage. And we turn away. We turn away. We should be crying in shame.
To be sure, veterans suffer from many of the same problems the rest of the population does – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income, and access to health care among others, and maybe 25% would have wound up homeless anyway if not for the military. But the 4 to 1 ratio of homeless vets to non-vets? There is no other common factor than military service to blame here. Our country is not treating and serving our veterans to the extent they need and deserve. We cannot continue treating the homeless vets as if they were all in that 25% that might have been homeless anyway.
The VA Excuse
In their homeless overview the VA implies that homeless vets tend to come from lower income families as a possible reason. Not true, not a real factor. Listen! Although the military services do actively recruit in that segment, the homeless vets are mostly Vietnam veterans. Mostly drafted veterans from all walks of life, all economic levels. Many thought the draft targeted poor people and minorities. In actuality, it was fairly applied to all American males. There were also many patriotic veterans that joined up. Patriotic veterans come from all walks of life. There are a few, a very few, notable exceptions. You can name a few, but not the hundreds of thousands you would need to make a real point.
I think that the core of the problem is largely due to a lack of immediate attention to our vets when they are first discharged and the complete failure of our Congress – you/me as well – to fund continuing care of our heroes that fall into trouble. It is already happening with Iraq and Afghanistan vets. And it is going to get much worse.
Homelessness among this nation’s veterans has been a common problem throughout our country’s history. I’ll give you some examples in a later post. Stay tuned.
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