Category Archives: Afghanistan

Invisible Wounds of War Report Available for Download

The Rand Corp. recently released a 499 page report titled “Invisible Wounds of War”.   This report was briefly summarized by numerous news articles and Internet reports, including my previous article. 

I’m happy to say that the entire report is available for free download online, or you can purchase a hard copy for $50 from the Rand Corporation through their online bookstore (link below).

Here is the link to the downloadable report which has details not reported elsewhere.  I strongly urge you to at least scan the entire report.   The subtitle is:

Psychological and Cognitive Injuries,

Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery

 

 

TERRI TANIELIAN AND LISA H.  JAYCOX, EDITORS

 

 

Download here   (2.9 mb full report)

or here  (200KB summary).

You can find the Rand Bookstore with these links here  

Oldtimer

  

 

The ‘equal opportunity war’ bring equal opportunity trauma

Much of the information below was gleaned from a well written USA Today story entitled Mental toll of war hitting female servicemembers.   Early in the story the writer tells about Master Sgt. Cindy Rathbun who began losing hair in clumps within 3 weeks of arriving in Iraq.   She is now enrolled in the first group of a new Women’s Trauma Recovery Program which is a 60 to 90 day program for female warriors. 

Cindy is suffering from the stress and trauma of war, but also from sexual trauma from prior to her deployment by a military superior.

Some tidbits of information directly from the article cited:

More than 182,000 women have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding region — about 11% of U.S. troops deployed, the Pentagon says.

That dwarfs the 7,500 who served mostly as nurses in Vietnam and the nearly 41,000 women deployed during the brief Gulf War.

Although some of those women suffered PTSD, few saw actual fighting or were subjected to the stress of multiple deployments.

In Iraq, “there are no lines, so anybody that deploys is in a war zone,” Rathbun says. “Females are combat veterans as well as guys.”

 To be sure, women are barred from ground jobs, technically assigned to support roles, but guess what?   Those support roles include guarding checkpoints, driving supply convoys and searching women in neighborhood patrols.   Dangerous duty just the same. 

Attacks come from IED’s, mortars, and suicide attacks on checkpoints as well as from enemy fighters.   The stress is there.  The fear is there.  The fatigue is there, the unknown is there, the worry about the home folks is there.  Death and destruction are evident every day.   More than 100 of our female warriors have died and almost 600 wounded.

 More from the article cited:

The ranks of psychologically wounded from this war are far larger. In 2006, nearly 3,800 women diagnosed with PTSD were treated by the VA. They accounted for 14% of a total 27,000 recent veterans treated for PTSD last year.

In June, the Defense Department’s Mental Health Task Force reported that the number of women suffering from combat trauma might be higher than reported. It cited “a potential barrier” for women needing mental-health treatment as “their need to show the emotional strength expected of military members.”

The report also said that after leaving the military, “many women no longer see themselves as veterans” and might not associate psychological symptoms with their time in the war zone.

Did you notice that?  Women represent 11% of the deployed but have 14% of the cases, even though the DoD thinks they are under reported.  Battle lines or not, they are being affected at a much higher rate than men, some possibly due to MST, Military Sexual Trauma that was being diagnosed and treated as PTSD.

Here is a link to Oldtimer’s PTSD Videos which includes a video on MST.

It is about time that this problem is being addressed early in the process for our returning heroes.   Our warriors are the best and deserve the best, black, white, male and female.    

Wear the uniform, deserve the best

Our programs should never be just about the men. 

It should be about our heroes.

Oldtimer

Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans

Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans

 Oldtimer’s Comment:  I’ve seen a number of these types of articles.   Although the estimates vary depending on the subject area from 400 to about 1500, the word on the street is that the returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are showing up in shelters much faster than in previous wars.  The problem stems from higher rates of PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury) which still take too long to diagnose, and which are resulting from the combined effect of IED’s and higher survival rates.    The VA has long under diagnosed these problems and only recently, after much heat, begun to actively pursue it. 

Photo by Jeff Swensen for The New York Times
Frederick Johnson, a veteran of the Iraq war, lives in temporary housing provided by the V.A. after spending a year on the streets.

By ERIK ECKHOLM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 – More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.

 

Photo by Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times
Joe Williams lives in a homeless shelter in Washington.

Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans’ accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did.

“We’re beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters,” said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counseling center. “But we anticipate that it’s going to be a tsunami.”

With more women serving in combat zones, the current wars are already resulting in a higher share of homeless women as well. They have an added risk factor: roughly 40 percent of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of recent wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers while in the military, officials said.

“Sexual abuse is a risk factor for homelessness,” Pete Dougherty, the V.A.’s director of homeless programs, said.

Special traits of the current wars may contribute to homelessness, including high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, which can cause unstable behavior and substance abuse, and the long and repeated tours of duty, which can make the reintegration into families and work all the harder.

Frederick Johnson, 37, an Army reservist, slept in abandoned houses shortly after returning to Chester, Pa., from a year in Iraq, where he experienced daily mortar attacks and saw mangled bodies of soldiers and children. He started using crack cocaine and drinking, burning through $6,000 in savings.

“I cut myself off from my family and went from being a pleasant guy to wanting to rip your head off if you looked at me wrong,” Mr. Johnson said.

(…)  Read more about Fredrick at the link above

Poverty and high housing costs also contribute. The National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington will release a report on Thursday saying that among one million veterans who served after the Sept. 11 attacks, 72,000 are paying more than half their incomes for rent, leaving them highly vulnerable.

Mr. Dougherty of the V.A. said outreach officers, who visit shelters, soup kitchens and parks, had located about 1,500 returnees from Iraq or Afghanistan who seemed at high risk, though many had jobs. More than 400 have entered agency-supported residential programs around the country. No one knows how many others have not made contact with aid agencies.

More than 11 percent of the newly homeless veterans are women, Mr. Dougherty said, compared with 4 percent enrolled in such programs over all.

Veterans have long accounted for a high share of the nation’s homeless. Although they make up 11 percent of the adult population, they make up 26 percent of the homeless on any given day, the National Alliance report calculated.

Oldtimer’s comment:   My studies show that homeless male veterans make up 43% of the homeless male population, far in excess of what would be expected.

According to the V.A., some 196,000 veterans of all ages were homeless on any given night in 2006. That represents a decline from about 250,000 a decade back, Mr. Dougherty said, as housing and medical programs grew and older veterans died.

Oldtimer’s comment:  Oops!  That is a deliberately misleading statement.   A GAO report states that the drop from 250,000 a decade ago was due to a major change in how homeless veterans are counted.   While it is true that our older veterans are dieing off, many more veterans are joining the ranks of the homeless and make up for it.  There has been no real decline, and actually there has been a steady increase in the percentage of homeless veterans vs the overall population of veterans.

The most troubling face of homelessness has been the chronic cases, those who live in the streets or shelters for more than year. Some 44,000 to 64,000 veterans fit that category, according to the National Alliance study.

On Wednesday, the Bush administration announced what it described as “remarkable progress” for the chronic homeless. Alphonso R. Jackson, the secretary of housing and urban development, said a new policy of bringing the long-term homeless directly into housing, backed by supporting services, had put more than 20,000, or about 12 percent, into permanent or transitional homes.

Oldtimer’s comment:  I’m not sure where these numbers come from.  It appears the HUD secretary is talking about all chronic homeless, not just veterans.   20,000 is 12% of 166,000, which is about right for the chronic homeless for the entire homeless population. To get a feel for progress among veterans, see the following two paragraphs.

Veterans have been among the beneficiaries, but Mary Cunningham, director of the research institute of the National Alliance and chief author of their report, said the share of supported housing marked for veterans was low.

A collaborative program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the V.A. has developed 1,780 such units. The National Alliance said the number needed to grow by 25,000.

Mr. Dougherty described the large and growing efforts the V.A. was making to prevent homelessness including offering two years of free medical care and identifying psychological and substance abuse problems early.

Oldtimer’s Comment:  ‘Bout Time!

(…)

PTSD vets soon coming like tsunami

There is a scary article in the San Francisco Chronicle.  The article predicts a flood of new stressed out veterans as they return form Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are on the fast track to PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders compared to previous wars.   I’ve reprinted a little of it below, but you can find the rest at this link where it is reproduced in SGate.com.   

A flood of stressed vets is expected

C.W. Nevius

Sunday, December 9, 2007

(…) omitted illustrative story about a vet (Tim Chapman) contemplating suicide, find it at the link. 

First a few facts. Bobby Rosenthal, regional manager for homeless programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, estimates that one third of the more than 6,000 homeless people – about 2,100 – in San Francisco are veterans.

And no wonder the number is so high. California leads the nation in homeless veterans by a mile, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. The 2006 numbers showed 49,724 homeless vets in California. The next nearest state was New York with 21,147.

Now here’s the scary part. Compared with what’s coming, that’s nothing.

Roughly 750,000 troops served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, often with multiple tours of duty. Many are only now returning home. But unlike Vietnam veterans, who didn’t begin to demonstrate post-war trauma until five or 10 years after they left the war, this group seems to be on a fast track.

“Everything is speeded up,” said Michael Blecker, executive director of San Francisco’s Swords to Ploughshares program. “What we’re seeing in San Francisco is guys in their 20s with the kind of stress and trauma that makes it impossible to go on with their lives.”

It’s been called a health care tsunami. Because not only are the Iraq vets prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (something Chapman has battled) but with improved battlefield health care, far more are surviving traumatic injury. On one hand, that’s good news, but it also means many more vets who are severely disabled, having lost arms and legs. Both factors increase the chances that the returning troops will join the sad ranks of homeless veterans.

Cities all over the country are bracing themselves, although some, like San Francisco, are bound to be hit harder. Mayor Gavin Newsom says that at a recent conference of mayors, the group passed a resolution asking the VA “to tell us what you are going to do.”   “It’s great lip service,” Newsom said, “but show me the money.”

If history holds, the mayors shouldn’t hold their breath. If anything, benefits for veterans have been restricted. To take one example, many of us think of the World War II G.I. Bill as a shining example of a reward for service, paying for college for vets. But Blecker, of Swords for Ploughshares, says the current version “is in no way, shape, or form near enough” to pay for a degree.

As Newsom says, “Yeah, support the troops – as long as they are young, healthy and a great photo op.”

For San Francisco, the potential impact could be huge. An influx of traumatized, battle-scarred veterans presents a scary future. Consider the case of Scott Kehler, a veteran of the first Gulf War, who needed years to work through his demons. He recalls passing burned bodies and the constant fear that an explosion would suddenly erupt in the street.

“It was the things I didn’t want to see at night when I closed my eyes,” Kehler said. “I didn’t know what PTSD was. I only knew my dreams, my shame, my guilt, was all coming together.”

(…) omitted a few details, go to link to get the rest.

Kehler, who is mentoring Chapman, is testimony to the effectiveness of the Ploughshares slogan – “veterans helping veterans.”

“Especially now that we’ve got our veterans coming home from Iraq,” said Ploughshares counselor Tyrone Boyd, “we’re going to need people that have been in combat so they know what they are talking about.”

The challenges are unique. Wanda Heffernon, a program and clinical counselor for Ploughshares, said they had a new inductee who slept in the closet. It was the only place he felt safe.

It’s the sudden transition that gets them.  “One day they are fighting in a war,” said Kehler. “The next day they are sitting at their mother’s kitchen table.”

Is it any wonder they end up on the street? Kehler battled alcohol abuse, but Chapman is part of the new breed, who turn to methamphetamine. Married when he returned, he lost his wife and all contact with his parents. Eventually he ended up sleeping in an alley.Now drug-free, living at Treasure Island housing, holding down a full-time job, and reconnected with his mother, he is testimony to the idea that peer counseling seems to work. Ploughshares has earned support from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Imagine the impact it would have on the San Francisco homeless problem if one third of those on street were able to get help and housing.

But what the vets don’t have is funding.

“Why isn’t the federal government doing something about this? Why isn’t the Veterans Administration doing something?” Blecker asks. “The irresponsibility of our leaders, not to address this, makes me want to tear my hair out.”

The VA’s Rosenthal – who gets high marks from local leaders – says the problem is not being ignored.

“It’s a whole new set of challenges,” she said. “The VA is looking at it. Let’s hope we’ve learned our lesson from Vietnam.”

We can only hope.

“You know what scares me?” asks Boyd. “I haven’t heard a plan (from the federal government) about what they are going to do when the troops come home. What’s the plan?”

Well?

C.W. Nevius’ column appears Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. His blog C.W. Nevius.blog can be found at SFGate.com. E-mail him at cwnevius@sfchronicle.com.

Oldtimer’s comment:  This story illustrates what I’ve said all along.  PTSD and TBI are leading causes of homelessness among veterans.  It is a rapidly growing problem, approaching flash flood conditions for our heroes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.   A tsunamis of real people, not just numbers, real people with real names.  Somebody’s sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.  Real people, all in serious trouble, heroes in despair  … we should be crying.  We should be helping, we should be calling on congress, questioning our candidates. 

Where is your voice, America?

Oldtimer  

Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans

New Report –

Vital Mission:

Ending Homelessness

Among Veterans

Homeless Veteran

Photo by  |Shrued (creative commons licensed)  Find it Here

This 36 page report released by the National Alliance to End Homelessness details the following highlights:

In 2006, approximately 195,827 veterans were homeless on a given night-an increase of 0.8 percent from 194,254 in 2005. More veterans experience homeless over the course of the year.  They  estimate that 336,627 were homeless in 2006.

Veterans make up a disproportionate share of homeless people. They represent roughly 26 percent of homeless people, but only 11 percent of the civilian population 18 years and older.  (Please see Oldtimer’s comment on these numbers below before you repeat them.) This is true despite the fact that veterans are better educated, more likely to be employed, and have a lower poverty rate than the general population.

A number of states, including Louisiana and California, had high rates of homeless veterans. In addition, the District of Columbia had a high rate of homelessness among veterans with approximately 7.5 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness.

They estimate that in 2005 approximately 44,000 to 64,000 veterans were chronically homeless (i.e., homeless for long periods or repeatedly and with a disability).

Oldtimer’s comment on the numbers:  My own studies show that  the real numbers are more like 43% of the male homeless are veterans. Here is an interesting footnote to the numbers reported above:

This estimate was calculated with 2005 veterans data from the CHALENG data set and 2005 tabulations of Continuum of Care (CoC) point-in-time counts.The CoC counts do not differentiate between adults and children, so in the number provided here-percent of homeless people who are veterans-the denominator includes some people under 18. If children were taken out of the 744,313 total, veterans would make up a larger percentage of the homeless population. This suggests that 26 percent is a conservative estimate. Either way, this estimate falls within the bounds of past research.Rosenheck (1994) reviewed research studies and found that between 29 and 49 percent of homeless men are veterans. HUD’s recent Annual Homelessness Assessment report (2007) puts the percentage of homeless veterans at 18 percent; however, 35 percent of the cases in this data source were missing, making the estimate highly unreliable.

The Rosenheck estimate  range includes the 43% that I had independently found.  The basis data for my findings are here.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has an interactive map that show veteran homelessness by state.  Click on the map to activate it, then your cursor will bring up data for each state as you hover over it.

It is interesting to note that Washington DC has the highest percentage of veterans that are homeless, more than double the rate of any other state at a whopping 7.51%.  Other high percentage states are Louisiana, California, Oregon, Nevada, Connecticut and  North Dakota in that order.   The highest number of homeless veterans are in California with more than 49,000 homeless, followed by New York, Florida and Texas in that order.

The following comes directly from the report:

Lack of affordable housing is the primary driver of homelessness. The 23.4 million U.S. veterans generally do not have trouble affording housing costs; veterans have high rates of home ownership and appear generally well housed. However, there is a subset of veterans who have severe housing cost burden.

■ We estimate that nearly half a million (467,877) veterans were severely rent burdened and were paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent.


■ More than half (55 percent) of veterans with severe housing cost burden fell below the poverty level and 43 percent were receiving foods stamps.

4■ Rhode Island, California, Nevada, and Hawaii were the states with the highest percentage of veterans with severe housing cost burden. The District of Columbia had the highest rate, with 6.4 percent of veterans paying more than 50 percent of their income toward rent.

■ Female veterans, those with a disability, and unmarried or separated veterans were more likely to experience severe housing cost burden. There are also differences by period of service, with those serving during the Korean War and WWII more likely to have severe housing cost burden.

■ We estimate that approximately 89,553 to 467,877 veterans were at risk of homelessness.  At risk is defined as being below the poverty level and paying more than 50 percent of household income on rent. It also includes households with a member who has a disability, a person living alone, and those who are not in the labor force.

However, the report body shows a laundry list of causes:

Lack of Income: Veterans who experience homelessness, like most homeless people, typically have very low incomes, and research suggests that extreme poverty predisposes veterans to homelessness. For this reason, veterans who joined the service after 1973 through the all-volunteer force are more likely to come from poverty and have lower rates of educational attainment.  (…) The unemployment rate for veterans aged 20 to 24 is 15 percent,

Physical Health and Disability: One out of 10 veterans is disabled and many suffer from physical disabilities, oftentimes caused by injuries in combat. (…)  The number of disabled veterans is increasing with more than 20,000 veterans suffering from wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mental Health and Disability: Mental health issues are also prevalent among veterans. The VA reports that 45 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness, including many who report high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  (…)

Substance Abuse: According to the Department of Veterans Affairs,  approximately 70 percent of homeless veterans suffer from substance abuse problems (…)

Weak Social Networks: (…) Veterans have low marriage rates and high divorce rates and, currently, one in five veterans is living alone.  (…) Social networks are particularly important forthose who have a crisis or need temporary help. Without this assistance, they are at high risk for homelessness.

Lack of Services to Meet Current Need: The VA has over 19,000 transitional housing beds for homeless veterans (10,000 through partnerships with local community agencies) with 460 FTEE in homeless program staffing.  (Oldtimer’s comment:  19,000 beds to serve over 300,000 veterans that are homeless during at least part of the year of which 44,000 to 64,000 are chronically homeless and 195,000 are homeless on any one night!)

I hope you can sleep well tonight after reading these statistics and findings. I know that I won’t.  I also know the homeless heroes sleeping in the bushes, alleys, behind dumpsters, in doorways, and in the woods or on mountain sides are not going to sleep as well as they could if we could only get our government to respect and support our troops when they come home.

Our Heroes

are out there tonight

and it is so very cold!

Oldtimer

Returning Vets: GI Bill Failing Them

Returning Veterans:

GI Bill Earns Dunce Cap 

GI Bill earns dunce capGI Bill earns Dunce Cap 

 I found this story in today’s @issue section of the Atlanta Journal- Constitution.   The author is Ellis Henican who is a columnist for Newsday.   He makes a point that returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan arrive to an ugly surprise – the highly touted education they were promised is still limping along essentially at World War II rates of funding compared to actual costs of an education.   The GI Bill is failing them and failing us for the promises we make for our heroes that go off to war.

He says what too many of us have been saying for it not to be true:  Our members of Congress from both parties are constantly saying how much they support our troops, yet once again, they shortchange our warriors when they come home.    Read the excerpts and then go back to the link above and read the entire article:

Returning Vets find GI Bill earns dunce cap

by Ellis Henican 

Newsday

Published on: 11/30/07

They’re coming home, the lucky ones are, pulling their lives back together after harrowing times in the war zone.   And the GI Bill is there to help them, same as it was for “the greatest generation,” who returned to civilian society after World War II.

Um, well, not exactly.

American vets now coming back from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are facing an ugly surprise — and I don’t just mean the iffy health care at their local VA hospital. The educational benefits that sounded so alluring in those upbeat recruiting ads? They don’t come close to covering the real costs of college.

“Four hundred dollars? Are you kidding?” Army Reserve Spc. Sheila Pion said of her monthly stipend. “Just my textbooks cost $410.”

A seven-year reservist back home in Long Island City, N.Y., and attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Pion served at an Army hospital in Kuwait, tending to wounded soldiers. “It was important duty,” said Pion, 24. “I was happy to do it. But the whole point of me joining the military was to pay for my education. And the educational benefits are nothing like they lead you to believe.”

(…)

Under today’s GI Bill, regular-service combat vets get $1,101 a month, far less for fighting members of the National Guard and Reserve. No one’s going to Harvard or Columbia on that kind of money. And even to qualify, today’s soldiers are required to deposit $100 a month into their own education fund, months or years before they ever get a nickel back.

“A combat tax,” the troops have starting calling these paycheck deductions.

(…)  Read the rest at the link, please.

 “Supporting the troops”

should be more than just a slogan!

______________________________________________________

Note:  After posting this an hour or so ago, I came across this related information. 

Did you know that the “No Child Left Behind” act now carries a provision that requires primary schools (your child’s high school for example) to provide detailed contact information for every child in the school to military recruiters?

Military recruiters can blitz youngsters with uninvited phone calls to their homes and on-campus pitches replete with video war games. This is all possible under a little noted part of the law that requires schools to provide the names, addresses (campus addresses, too) and phone numbers of students or risk losing federal aid. The law provides an option to block the hard-sell recruitment – but only if parents demand in writing that the school deny this information to the military.

It is in the recruitment of lower middle class students, focused on minority blacks and Hispanics, where the education card is pushed hardest in order to meet the recruitment goals to fill the ranks of our military.  These are the kids most likely to see an educational opportunity as a blessing and also the most unlikely to realize that it will not be enough to get them a real education.  It is these recruits that are in most need that later find the GI Bill failing them most dramatically.

Oldtimer

 

Shelters take many vets of Iraq, Afghan wars

Shelters take many vets of Iraq, Afghan wars

Excerpts from a Boston Globe Article By Anna Badkhen,

As more troops return from deployments, social workers and advocates expect the number of the homeless to increase, flooding the nation’s veterans’ shelters, which are already overwhelmed by homeless veterans from other wars.

No one keeps track of how many of the 750,000 troops who have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 are homeless. 

Peter Dougherty, director of homeless programs for the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, said 300 veterans of these conflicts have asked the agency for help finding shelter in the last 30 months.

“It’s a major problem that’s not going away anytime soon,” said Cheryl Beversdorf, director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington.  Beversdorf’s agency has helped 1,200 homeless veterans of the current wars.

This reflects only a fraction of the total number of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, said Amy Fairweather, who works with Iraq war veterans at Swords to Plowshares, a private organization based in San Francisco that assists veterans. Last year, her agency’s five shelters in California helped 250 such veterans, she said.

Oldtimer”s comment:  Read the entire article and find out what is really happening to our returning heroes.

Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans sue US government

Lawsuit says VA mishandled claims

By Laura Parker, USA TODAY

A coalition of disabled Iraq war veterans sued the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday, accusing the VA of illegally denying or delaying claims for disability pay and mental health treatment.   The lawsuit names Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, among others, and asks for sweeping changes in the way the federal government handles claims of more than 1.6 million veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

“We’re asking the court to set time standards. When veterans apply for medical care, it takes months and years,” said Gordon Erspamer, one of the attorneys who filed the suit. He said changes are needed now “because of the huge influx of claims that will be coming through the pipeline in the next year or two.”

Filed on behalf of an estimated 750,000 veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the lawsuit is the latest in a list of complaints about the quality of medical care provided to veterans returning from war. This month, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ordered the VA to pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange who have contracted leukemia.

VA spokesman Matt Smith declined to comment on the pending lawsuit. He told the Associated Press that the VA “ensures … servicemembers have access to the widely recognized quality health care they have earned.”

Some of the alleged shortcomings named in the suit include:

• A backlog of up to 600,000 disability payments, with delays of up to 177 days for initial claims.

• A shortage of treatment programs for post-traumatic stress disorder.

• A classification of post-traumatic stress disorder claims as “pre-existing personality disorders” in order to deny veterans disability or medical treatment.

Steve Edwards, an Army sergeant who returned from Iraq in 2005, said he almost lost his house while he waited 14 months without income for disability compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder. “The system is broken,” he said Monday.

Comment by Oldtimer:  This is only one of about 350 news stories on the net today.  Below are a few samples. 

Injured Iraq war veterans sue VA head   Kansas City Star

Injured Iraq War Veterans To Sue Va Head  Guardian in UK

Veterans sue over “shameful failures” in care Washington Post

Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans sue US government  Melborne Hearald Sun Austrailia

US Veterans Take Class Action  Newsroom America, New Zealand

Iraqi, Afghan veterans sue US govt  Times of India, India

HEALTH-US: Vets Sue Gov’t for “Shameful Failures”  IPS Italy

Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans sue US  Press TV, Iran  (excerpts below)

Hundreds of thousands of the war veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have filed a lawsuit against the US over lack of medical care. They accused the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of violating the constitutional rights of war veterans who have to face a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves claims pending for up to 10 years.

“The delays have become an insurmountable barrier preventing many veterans from obtaining health care and benefits,” the plaintiffs said in their 11-page complaint filed at a US District Court in San Francisco.

The Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth Inc. complained on behalf of “hundreds of thousands of men and women who have suffered grievous injuries,” alleging the system for deciding VA claims “has largely collapsed.”

“The huge influx of injured troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has overwhelmed the VA’s outmoded systems for providing medical care and disability benefits,” the complaint said. 

Oldtimer’s Comment:  I wish the VA had listened to a few of our lonely voices and done something without all this world wide attention.  The VA should make us as proud as our troops have.   They are treating heroes.  They are treating our returning warriors.  They need to be treated right.  We don’t need to give the enemy any reason to crow.


 

Report: Veteran Homelessness on the Rise

 Veteran Homelessness Rising 

This report came from Military.com.  They say it so well, I can’t really add to it.   

June 18, 2007

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to a sharp rise in the number of homeless military veterans, a recently completed Congressional Research Service report on homeless veterans says, and lawmakers are beginning to take notice. 

The report shows female veterans were as much as four times more likely to become homeless than non-veteran women, with male veterans nearly twice as likely to become homeless than non-veterans.

Though many believe homelessness plagues Vietnam draftees disproportionately, the largest group of homeless vets comes from those who enlisted after Vietnam, the May 31 CRS report showed.

And although experiences in combat and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are contributing factors to homelessness, studies have “found no unique association between combat-related PTSD and homelessness,” the report said.

“Research has determined that homeless combat veterans were no more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than combat veterans who were not homeless,” CRS said.

Since Vietnam, most veterans do not normally become homeless within the first 10 years of separation, the CRS report said. But a December 2006 “Iraq Veteran Project” study prepared by the Swords to Plowshares veterans’ advocacy group, troops who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming homeless sooner than their predecessors – seeking housing services within months after returning from Iraq.

“New veterans are falling through the cracks, and they are shocked and angry at the lack of care afforded them,” said Iraq Veteran Project report author, Amy Fairweather. “They stand at the precipice of chronic homelessness unless there is a concerted effort to address their needs.” 

And Congress is taking notice. 

Barack ObamaIllinois Democrat and presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, told the Associated Press at an April 6 campaign rally that “veterans are far more likely to be homeless than non-veterans and part of it is because we’re not providing services to them as they transition out of the service,”

“Part of it is because there is just not enough affordable housing,” he added. 

In April, Obama introduced legislation dubbed the “Homes for Heroes Act,” which would establish grant and voucher programs to encourage development of affordable housing targeted for veterans.

Daniel AkakaIn addition, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) has introduced a bill that would institute a program in which the VA and DoD would work together to identify returning members of the armed services who are at risk of homelessness.

Larry CraigOn the other side of the aisle, Sen. Larry Craig (R. Idaho), is lending his clout to the problem.

“The number of homeless on any given night is too high and we are working hard on Capitol Hill to turn those numbers around,” said Craig, who recently received the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans 2007 Congressional Award.

According to the Iraq Veteran Project report, the VA has created a list of factors that can help prevent homelessness, including employment assistance, transition assistance, rehabilitation, medical care, commensurate employment, compensation award and work therapy.

In response to congressional pressure, the Pentagon recently partnered with several federal agencies to create an online portal called “Turbo TAP” designed to help veterans get the information, counseling, and access to the services they need to ensure a successful transition from military to civilian life.

The CRS report adds there are currently five federal programs specifically designed to assist homeless veterans, these programs will require about $270 million in 2007, and future costs are on the rise.

Other research indicates that VA homeless programs have already served as many as 600 returning OIF/OEF veterans and over 1,000 more have been identified as being at risk of becoming homeless, CRS added.
 
This leaves many veterans’ advocates concerned that the current VA budget and infrastructure will not be able to respond to the needs of an ever-increasing number of homeless and at risk veterans in the coming years.

“VA has consistently underestimated the homeless veteran problem,” said Larry Scott, veterans’ advocate and founder of “VA Watchdog.org.”

“And, even when presented with hard data on the number of homeless vets in America, VA continues to under fund outreach, rehabilitation programs and facilities designed to help this vulnerable population.”

Heroes are out there too!

Please call or write your Congressman

Homeless Veterans – Recent Study

How Many Homeless Veterans Are There?

Unless otherwise noted, the data in this article came from: “Ending Homelessness Among Veterans Through Permanent Supportive Housing

The most recent estimate of the number of homeless veterans comes from the FY2005 report of the Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups (CHALENG) for Veterans.  

CHaling reports that the number of homeless veterans counted during the point in time count was 195,254.

The VA estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans may be homeless on any given night and 400,000 veterans experience homelessness during a year.

The National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (updated in 1999) found that  23% of all homeless clients and 33% of homeless men are veterans.   Compare that to the 2000 Census that estimates 12.7% of the general population are veterans.  Veterans are 2 to 3 times as likely to be homeless than the general population.

Characteristics of Homeless Veterans

• 45% suffer from mental illness
• 50% have substance abuse problems
• 67% served three or more years
• 33% were stationed in a war zone
• 25% have used VA Homeless Services
• 89% received an honorable discharge

Homeless Veterans vs. Non-Veterans

Homeless male veterans are more likely to be chronically homeless than homeless male non-veterans.  “32 percent of homeless male veterans report that their last homeless episode lasted 13 or more months, compared to 17 percent of male nonveterans.”

They are also more likely to abuse alcohol than homeless non-veterans.

Homeless veterans are better educated than homeless non-veterans, less likely to have never married, and more likely to be working for pay.

Why Do Veterans Go Homelessness?

A study of Vietnam-era veterans by Rosenheck and Fontana demonstrated that the two factors with the greatest effect on homelessness were 1) (lack of) support in the year after discharge from military service and 2) social isolation.

This is consistent with the results of a study by Tessler and Rosenheck which showed that homeless veterans experiencing the longest current episodes of homelessness were those who also had “behavioral risk factors with possible early onset, and those who were lacking in social bonds to civilian society that are normally conferred by employment, marriage, and support from family of origin.”

 Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

Initial data indicates rates of mental health disorders that could surpass those seen among Vietnam Veterans. A study by Charles Hoge et al found that:

19 percent of soldiers who served in Iraq screened positive for a potential mental health disorder, including PTSD compared with 11 percent for veterans of the war in Afghanistan. National Guard soldiers, one study found, were about 2 percentage points more likely to experience problems.

This is particularly distressing when coupled with the fact that among veterans “whose responses were positive for a mental disorder, only 23 to 40 percent sought mental health care” and the GAO finding that the “[Department of Defense] cannot provide reasonable assurance that OEF/OIF (Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom) servicemembers who need referrals receive them.”

Homeless Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan

Although many Vietnam veterans did not experience homelessness until 10-15 years after they left the service, homeless service providers are seeing veterans of OEF/OIF already. Social workers fear that “the trickle of stunned soldiers returning from Baghdad and Kabul has the potential to become a tragic tide.” Homeless OEF/OIF veterans themselves are saying “they [are] surprised how quickly they slid into the streets.”

Hypotheses for this quicker descent into homelessness include a tighter housing market than existed during the Vietnam era and a higher percentage of troops exposed to trauma during their service.

There Are Homeless Heroes Out There 

Veterans Protest Over ‘Lack Of Care’ Outside Of LA’s VA

West LA VA Medical CenterThe group Citizens For Veterans’ Rights estimates there are between 15,000 and 24,000 homeless veterans living in Los Angeles County. 

Veteran:  “We ask the people behind those gates, ‘open those gates.’ Give that service and give a home to the homeless veteran.”   (Picture from VA Web site)

Find the rest of this story here
March 16, 2007
LOS ANGELES — Veterans marched outside the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center on Friday in protest of what they said is a lack of care being provided to aging veterans and soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Between 70 and 75 veterans and supporters marched “to draw attention to policies at the West Los Angeles VA that have led to the deaths of veterans,” said organizer Keith Jeffreys.(…)   During the protest at San Vicente and Wilshire Boulevards, veteran Jay Handle said more medical and social services need to be provided to the men and women returning from war.  “We have a major problem here that hasn’t been recognized nationally, and the major problem is those gates are locked to the people who are standing out here every day,” Handle said.  “We ask the people behind those gates, ‘open those gates.’ Give that service and give a home to the homeless veteran.”The group Citizens For Veterans’ Rights estimates there are between 15,000 and 24,000 homeless veterans living in Los Angeles County, Jeffreys said.   In the 2005 Homeless Count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimated Los Angeles County has more than 15,000 homeless vets.“It’s an enormous burden for Los Angeles County to bear so we look at it not only as a local issue but we need changes made VA-wide, starting with Washington,” Jeffreys said.“We have to roll up our sleeves here and quit talking about making changes and really make changes.”Comment:  This particular hospital recently made the news for removing the wrong testicle from a veteran during cancer surgery.
HEROES need our help more than ever!
Oldtimers Comment:  Click here for all Homeless Veterans Articles

From Serving in Iraq To Living on the Streets

Homeless Vet Numbers Expected to Grow
Oldtimer’s Comment:  The following are excerpts from a lengthy and important story in The Washington Post.  These tidbits only serve to summarize some of the important points of the story.  I encourage you to read the rest at the link below.

Please visit this site and read the rest of the story
By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 5, 2007 

Aaron ChesleyAaron Chesley, 26, is part of a new crop of veterans
who served in Iraq or Afghanistan who are struggling with homelessness. (Photo by Carol Guzy — The Washington Post)“In a homeless shelter filled with Vietnam War veterans, Chesley, 26, a former Catonsville High School honors student who joined the West Virginia Army National Guard in 2000 to help pay for college, was the only one in the facility who fought in the country’s latest conflict. But across the nation, veterans of recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are slowly starting to trickle into shelters, officials say.(…)  As in the Vietnam War era, when thousands of vets ended up homeless, there are already signs that the recent conflicts are taking a traumatic psychological toll on some service members. Many veterans’ advocates said that despite unprecedented attempts by the military and Veterans Affairs to care for veterans, increasing numbers of the new generation of warriors are ending up homeless.“This is something we need to be concerned about,” said Cheryl Beversdorf, president of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, a Washington-based nonprofit.(…)  Army studies have found that up to 30 percent of soldiers coming home from Iraq have suffered from depression, anxiety or PTSD. A recent study found that those who have served multiple tours are 50 percent more likely to suffer from acute combat stress.Veterans’ homeless shelters across the country, such as the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training in Baltimore, are bracing for increased demand. “The wave has not hit yet, but it will,” said retired Army Col. Charles Williams, MCVET’s executive director.(…) “Usually it takes a period of time before it surfaces — the PTSD,” (Woody Curry) said. “And the military mentality leads you to try to tough it out and not say anything.”(…) Meanwhile, a report by the Democratic staff of the House Veterans Affairs Committee found that from October 2005 to June 2006, the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking services from walk-in veterans centers doubled, from 4,467 to 9,103.“It’s clear from the report that Vet Center capacity has not kept pace with demand for services, and the administration has failed to properly plan and prepare for the mental health needs of returning veterans and their families,” U.S. Rep. Michael H. Michaud (D-Maine), a member of the committee, said in a statement.

(…)

Oldtimer