Category Archives: homeless veterans

Housewarming for Al

Housewarming! 

For Al !!

Al Jordan, our homeless veteran friend moved into veteran’s transitional housing on April 1, 2008.  He is still excited.   Pat Shankle of Georgia Home Staging with the help of husband Scott and friends staged his new apartment.  That means she selected the furnishings from the warehouse of MUST Ministries, added other stuff such as pictures, decorations, pillows, kitchen and dining room stuff and then professionally decorated the entire apartment – living room, bedroom, kitchen and dining room.   Pat does this for a living, normally staging houses for sale in order to make them more attractive, leading to quicker sale.   She also staged a home for our last Habitat homeowner, Joi.  Pat has said she is negotiating with MUST to stage a number of additional apartments as part of her homeless ministry.  Admire her work in the following pictures.

Als Apartment entry

Entry to Al’s new apartment.

Some of Als friends from our church gave him a housewarming dinner last night (April 3).   It was a great event for Al and his new housemate, Danny.  

Danny, Pat, Al

Danny McDaniel, Pat Shankle, Al Jordan

The food was catered by our Wednesday night dinner food experts.  It was GREAT eating.

Shrimp!  Chicken was also avialable

Shrimp!  Bacon and green beans.  Chicken was also available.  Desert consisted of ice cream with hot fudge.

Here are a few pictures of Als apartment taken while he gave us the grand tour:

Als Bedroom

Als Bedroom

Car tag

Prized car tag in window! for when he can afford a car.  Link to Macland Presbyterian

Bedroom

Another view of Al’s bedroom. 

Kitchen

Kitchen.  The fridge is opposite the stove.  Yes that is a coffee grinder in the far left corner and bags of Starbucks (gifts) on the shelf.

Dining room

Dining nook and lighting

Now to the gifts and people.  Al’s guests came with gifts ranging from DVD players to $50 gift cards and more than a few misty moments as Al opened them and read the cards.   Here are a few photos:

Ladies and Al

As ususal, all the ladies sat on one side of the room and the gents on the other.  And yes, Al is working with a hankie at the moment.

Cross

Admiring the Cross

Al with Pastor Ray Jones III

Our Pastor, Ray Jones III with Al. 

Towels

More gifts, in this case towels and other bathroom supplies

Scott Shankle

Pat’s husband Scott.

Jeff Staka

Jeff Straka.   You may remember him from our meeting with the Police Chief in an earlier blog.

I think we were all as pleased as Jeff appears to be in this photo with the outcome of our first venture into the homeless world.    Al and Danny seemed pleased too.   Although there are not many pictures of Danny here, he was not left out of the festivities and joined in our meal and prayers as well as shared in the joy of the moment for Al.

Danny and Al seem to be very comfortable house mates and will get along well together.  Danny, also a veteran in the program, has a car and has offered to drive Al to our Wednesday night dinner and to Church.  Looks like we have made a new friend there as well.  Danny’s is a different story where he once was married to the daughter of one of the biggest landowners in this area and now struggling to climb out of homelessness.

We also met a bear of a man, Jon who came in to check the refrigerator.  He is also a veteran, lives on the property and maintains/repairs anything that needs fixing.  This is a 20 unit complex entirely devoted to transitional housing for homeless veterans.   With two men to a unit, 40 veterans are served.  Jon said he is enrolled in the STEP program.   Nether Danny nor Al are enrolled in treatment programs, though they are required to find and keep jobs and eventually work their way out of the housing.

Part of the challange is this:  The entire complex is surrounded by woods habitated by other homeless men, somewhat envious of their neighbors.   The area is a high crime area including drugs.   Part of Jon’s job is to keep the area clear of anyone not residents of the complex.   It seems to be working.  I found the complex clean and nicely kept. 

I was well pleased with the housing situation.   This complex is funded by HUD and run by MUST ministries with grants from HUD.   Something just feels right about this situation.

Slide Show

Here is a slideshow with includes all of the pictures taken by me at the dinner, 47 in all.  Enjoy

Oldtimer

Good News – Ask the right question!

Ask the right question. 

 Al was frustrated.  We were frustrated, even his case manager at MUST was frustrated.  The new transitional housing program was due to start April 1 but to get in, Al needed to prove his eligibility and he needed his DD-14.  The deadline was just a few days away.   It was already March 26.   He had his application in for months.  He had his request for his DD-14 copy in for months.  Nothing was happening.  His case manager had even faxed in a copy of the application papers.   No response.   It looked pretty bleak as nothing was happening at the VA.

No DD-14 on the way and no good reason why.  I don’t know the details other than this:  Al said he had been conferencing with his case manager on Wednesday and they were both lamenting that nothing seemed to be working.  Then Al happened to mention that he has a birthday coming up in a few months and he “needed to get his VA drivers license renewed”.   Just a simple off-the-wall comment to pass the time.

The case manager said something like:  “WHAT did you just say?!!!… You have a VA drivers license?… Let me see it!”  “This is all you need for proof… you are in!”.

It turns out that no one had asked the right question.  

You don’t get a veterans driver’s license without a DD-14  and it requires a certificate of eligibility from the VA to get the licence.  The existence of the driver’s license was all that has been needed all along.  Now Al is going into transitional housing on April 1.  It was an alert case manager that finally saved the day.  It would have been easy to not notice the remark.  None of us trying to help him knew.  No one at the VA asked whether he had a veterans driver’s license.   Al didn’t know it would suffice.   Only the alert case manager caught the significance.   Thank you Michael Laird of MUST ministries.  

Al once had his separation papers and has since lost them.  That happens to homeless veterans a lot.    He qualified for his veteran’s drivers license some time ago and has maintained it current.    

So much trouble and so much delay for lack of the right question.  So if any of you veterans are having trouble getting a copy of your separation papers and you have a veterans drivers license, pull it out!   You may have a shortcut!

We have something special planned for Al, but don’t go hinting, as it is a surprise.

Oldtimer

PS:  This is what the GA DMV says:

Veterans

Veterans receive a free license until they reach the age of 65. Then they must renew their licenses every five years and are required to pass a vision test each renewal period.

You’ll need to provide a copy of your separation papers, showing your honorable discharge, to your county’s Department of Veterans Service to receive your certificate of eligibility. Present this certificate to your local driver’s license office to receive your free license.”

  

Oldtimer Speaks more about recalls

A few days ago I made a lengthy post about toy recalls and our general mania about dangerous materials – See Lead Paint Mania – Are we going overboard?.   Such mania has become so ingrained in our younger generation as to be completely ridiculous. 

This delightful cartoon from B.C., created by Johnny Hart and published by Creators Syndicate, Inc. can be found on Creators.com.   Sadly Johnny Hart passed away this year.   Looks like the work is being carried on by capable hands.

 B.C.

Today there is yet another story about a toy recall, this one due to asbestos supposedly found in a Planet Toys CSI toy, a fingerprinting kit.   This comes after traces of asbestos were alledgely found in some samples of the fingerprinting dust. 

Now here is the rub:  Fingerprinting dust is just that, a very finely ground powder.  The problem with asbestos is in the fiber.  People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos fibers for a long time.   Once it is ground so fine that it becomes a dust, it no longer is a fiber is it

Now consider this:  Asbestos is in virtually every sample of dirt and dust you can find on this planet.   We have asbestos dust on and alongside of every road in America from the constant wearing of asbestos pads on our automotive brakes.   Virtually every car had them for throughout their lifetime.   They all wore out somewhere along our highways, mostly in the cities.   No wonder it might show up in fingerprinting dust.  You can very likely find traces of it on your dining room table if you haven’t dusted lately.

Here are common sources of asbestos dust on our planet, not even considering that it is a natural mineral sometimes blasted into the atmosphere by natural sources (I even have a large sample of it in my rock collection):

STEAM PIPES, BOILERS, and FURNACE DUCTS insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape.

RESILIENT FLOOR TILES (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber)

The backing on VINYL SHEET FLOORING, and ADHESIVES used for installing floor tile.

CEMENT SHEET, MILLBOARD, and PAPER used as insulation around furnaces and woodburning stoves.

DOOR GASKETS in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves.

SOUNDPROOFING OR DECORATIVE MATERIAL sprayed on walls and ceilings.

PATCHING AND JOINT COMPOUNDS for walls and ceilings, and TEXTURED PAINTS.

ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOFING, SHINGLES, and SIDING.

ARTIFICIAL ASHES AND EMBERS sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces.

Older FIREPROOF GLOVES, STOVE-TOP PADS, IRONING BOARD COVERS, and certain HAIRDRYERS.

AUTOMOBILE BRAKE PADS AND LININGS, CLUTCH FACINGS, and GASKETS.

Most of the above were found in a listing here: Asbestos Dangers:
A Homeowner’s Field Guide
.

The list is for the homeowner, but the greatest uses were military and industrial, particularly shipyard and any industrial furnace and boiler application.   

There have been tens of thousands, perhaps many millions of homes and buildings with these materials demolished over the last 100 years without any consideration for the potential danger.  It was an unknown danger.

Here is another rub.   When these products were introduced, no one knew they were dangerous.  As we replace these products with new ones, we have no idea if the new products will someday turn out to be even worse.   Some of these things take 40 or more years of exposure to show harmful effects. 

Anyway, this may be my last post on dangerous material mania.   There is too big of an industry built around “protecting” us from mold, mildew, various “deadly” medicines, mercury, asbestos, lead, silica poisoning, and fake stucco.   Too many testing labs and kit manufacturers,  too many repair and recovery businesses.  Too many lawyers doing class actions, too many activists going after the toy industry.  

Our veterans have been fighting for years about the damage caused by Agent Orange, depleted uranium bullets and other wartime generated dangers.  These are REAL dangers, not imagined ones.   We should be developing industries around correcting those problems which plague our veterans, our heroes.

It is downright discouraging how too many of us overreact to the household things.  The truth is, most of this mania is manufactured by lecherous industries and lawyers.   It is also discoraging that not enough of us are reacting to our homeless plight, particularly our homeless heroes plight.

Oldtimer

PS: I wore a face mask filter to finish sanding today.  Was coughing up white dust so I  decided to not fight it any longer.   Who knows?  I might not live another 70 years if I keep abusing myself!

December 21 – Homeless Memorial Day

December 21 

Homeless Memorial Day

memorial day poster

The date is chosen as the First Day of Winter – The longest Night of the Year

(Find the poster here)

For the homeless, any night can be a nightmare.   Danger aside, Winter is the worst season, any night with rain, sleet or snow is just plain miserable.   Unsheltered homeless die far too often in such conditions.   Our homeless heroes, our veterans die in the cold, sleet and snow too.

According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, homelessness dramatically increases the risk of illness, injury or death.  

Compared to the general population, the homeless :

Are 3 times more likely to die at any given age 

Middle aged men and young women are most at risk

Have a life span 28 years less than national average

Have 6 times the incidence of serious illnesses

Die from illnesses that are easily treated or prevented

Who live in shelters have high risk of communicable diseases

Have a high incidence of death from heart problems or cancer

Risk death on the streets from cold

Have 8 times the risk of dieing from Frostbite 

Too often die on the streets from unprovoked hate crimes

Lack access to quality health care. 

Here is a list of 2222 homeless people and their locations by city that are known deaths in 2006.  There were an estimated 17,500 homeless deaths in the United States last year, meaning that more than 15,000 homeless died virtually unnoticed or at least unidentified in 2006.  (I base that knowing that there are about 735,000 homeless in this country and the homeless die at 3x the rate of 800 deaths per 100,000 of the general population.)

Keep in mind that about 4,600 of those deaths are homeless veterans.  I base that on the knowledge that there are an estimated 195,000 homeless veterans and use the same rates as above.

There is no way to know how close that number is, but whatever it is, it is shameful that our homeless are so very vulnerable to death through the neglect of our system of care.   It is a disgrace to this country that almost 5000 of our heroes die in in the streets and alleys of our country each year.    

So when Homeless Memorial Day comes around, you can also remember the 4600 homeless heroes that did not die on the battlefield of war, but lived to die in the alleys, streets and woods of the country they served, uncared for, helpless and unwanted.  My fault as much as anyone for not speaking up as loudly as I should.    Can’t we all do more? 

Oldtimer

Homeless Veteran Fellowship

The Homeless Veteran Fellowship (HVF) is located in Ogden, Utah.   Their motto is “Veterans Helping Veterans and Our Community”.  It was founded in 1989 by a group of veterans. 

 

Main Office, drop in center and some residences

Folks, this is a pretty neat operation!   They provide 32 transitional residences for needy veterans.   They also provide a comprehensive range of services to assist the homeless veteran to move from transitional housing to independent living by providing:

Substance-free, zero-tolerance, stabilized transitional housing.
Acquisition of skills and knowledge necessary to obtain suitable employment.
Acquisition of life skills necessary for independence and self-sufficiency
Employment development and placement in suitable occupations which maximizes the resident’s income potential
Substance abuse counseling to promote maintained abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol.
Mental health counseling to assist residents to process issues that may impede their ongoing development.

They consider themselves as an aid station for behind the lines assistance to veterans in need of help.

They have a drop in center that welcomes homeless veterans.    The Drop-in center is manned by volunteers and transitional housing members. People working in the drop-in center are prepared to discuss program basics and initiate paperwork, assist with Veterans Administration needs (DD 214, ID Card, etc.).   The drop in center has a small library of donated paperback books for those who just want to rest and relax.

The drop-in center provides hot coffee, donuts, and reading material for visitors, workers, and residents. Donated supplies, including coffee, sugar, plastic ware, pastries, creamer, cups, napkins, and cleaning supplies.  Also paperback books, magazines, board games, card games, food items, such as canned goods, boxed or packaged items.   Hygiene items (soap, toothpaste, tooth brushes, deodorant, etc.) are also available for those living on the street.

HVF provides referral services through the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, and through other local agencies. HVF also provides extensive case management services for clients to ensure that all critical needs are met.

There is a licensed Clinical Social Worker and Substance Abuse counselor on staff to provide both individual and group counseling for Veterans in the Transitional Housing program.

 HVF’s employment development program consists of a full-time Employment Development Specialist to assist clients in obtaining meaningful employment. HVF has a vendor license with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation for Supported Job Based Training (SJBT).

The Homeless Veterans Fellowship provides a Transitional Housing Program which is designed to temporarily stabilize the housing needs of veterans, both single and with families.

Main Housing Unit (there are 3 others)

Facilities:

The HVF Office building houses the Drop-In Center, Director’s Office, Employment Specialist, VA Counseling Services and apartments.
Next Door to the Office Building is the main housing facility with apartments available for male, female, or family participants.
To the rear of the main housing facility there is a renovated house that has been converted into apartments to support residents.
Just up the road about a block is a 4th facility with apartments to support residents.
In all there are facilities to house 32 participants
.

This looks like a program that could be emulated across the country.  Homeless Veterans Fellowship is a non-profit organization, as such, it depends totally upon the generosity of the community and public and private grants.

That is the way to minister to the homeless veteran! 

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

Barack Obama: Veterans/Poverty Headlines and Video

Barack and Veterans Issues

Ok, I’m not trying to influence any votes here, nor run off any readers.  It’s just that I’m impressed with what I’ve heard said by Senator Obama regarding homelessness and veterans and what the press and veterans advocates have said.  I don’t know if you have seen them.   He does have the advantage of being a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committe.   I acknowledge that there are other important issues than veterans and homelessness to consider in a campaign, but that is what we are about here, so that is my focus.

I do have an couple of links to the Clinton side.  There is an equal-time segment at the bottom that will give you a look see between the top two Democratic candidates on veterans issues.   I may come back with more of this and feature a Republican or two later.  We will see how this plays out with my readers first.  Are you interested in politics?

BarackObamadotcom  (Video) Dinner with Barack Obama:  Four grassroots donors talk to Barack Obama about veterans and poverty during dinner.

I’ve mentioned Obama and Veterans in a previous post where he discusses his plan to improve veterans care and help get the homeless veterans off the streets as reported by a wire service.

Here are a few more headlines and links on this subject:

SEN. OBAMA: VETERANS ADMINISTRATION DENIED HEALTH CARE SERVICES TO NEARLY 9,000 ILLINOIS VETERANS IN 2005

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) today announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied health care to 8,944 Illinois veterans last year as part of a Bush Administration cost-cutting policy begun in 2003. Nationally, more than 260,000 veterans were denied access to VA hospitals, clinics and medications in Fiscal
Year 2005

Clinton v. Obama, Veterans Version

The tit-for-tat between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama has expanded to new territory:   veterans benefits.

This week, the “Commission on Care of America’s Wounded Warriors” issued recommendations for improving treatment for veterans who return injured from the front. Clinton and Obama responded the way members of Congress often do to government reports – with legislative language.  

(…)  explains different positions

Obama, McCaskill sponsor bill on care for veterans

Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are sponsoring legislation to improve the lives of recovering veterans at Walter Reed, while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a cosponsor of the Obama-McCaskill legislation, said that he would explore ways to direct new funds to Walter Reed and make immediate improvements to its veteran housing.

Barack Obama Honors Sacrifice of America’s Veterans

Barack Obama has a record of helping the heroes who defend our nation today and the veterans who fought in years past. As a grandson of a World War II veteran who went to college on the G.I. Bill and a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Obama has successfully reached out to Republicans and Democrats to pass laws to combat homelessness among veterans, improve care for troops recovering from injuries, ease the transition of new veterans into society, and make the disability benefits process more equitable.

Veterans Issues  From Obama’s website

Homeless Veterans

Every year, 400,000 veterans across the country, including an estimated 38,000 in Chicago, spend some time living on the streets. Senator Obama has been a leader in fighting homelessness among veterans. He authored the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act (SAVE Act) to strengthen and expand federal homeless veteran programs that serve over 100,000 homeless veterans annually. During the debate on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Senator Obama passed an amendment to increase funding for homeless veterans programs by $40 million. These funds would benefit programs that provide food, clothing, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and employment and housing assistance to homeless veterans.

Working with Senators Akaka and Craig, Senator Obama passed legislation in December 2006 to provide comprehensive services and affordable housing options to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development and nonprofit organizations. This legislation was signed into law and is modeled on parts of the SAVE Act and the Homes for Heroes Act, a measure that Senator Obama had previously authored.

Benefits Disparities

The Bush Administration’s approach to handling veterans’ health care ignores the reality of increasing demands on the VA, and the additional burden placed on veterans. The Administration has established a means test for VA health care eligibility, and it has banned hundreds of thousands of veterans – some who make as little as $30,000 a year – from enrolling in the system. These changes affect both older and younger veterans, and Senator Obama has opposed them, fighting instead for greater funding for veterans’ health care.

Greater Funding for Veterans Health Care

In January 2007, Senator Obama reintroduced the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act to improve the VA’s planning process to avoid budget shortfalls in the future. The bill requires the VA and the Department of Defense to work together and share data so that we know precisely how many troops will be returning home and entering the VA system.

Food for Recovering Soldiers

Senator Obama introduced an amendment that became law providing food services to wounded veterans receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services at military hospitals. Previously, service members receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services in a medical hospital for more than 90 days were required to pay for their meals.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
 

Senator Obama fought a VA proposal that would have required a reexamination of all Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cases in which full benefits were granted. He and Senator Durbin passed an amendment that became law preventing the VA from conducting a review of cases, without first providing Congress with a complete report regarding the implementation of such review. In November 2005, the VA announced that it was abandoning its planned review.

Senator Obama passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI is being called the signature injury of the Iraq war. The blast from improvised explosive devices can jar the brain, causing bruising or permanent damage. Concussions can have huge health effects including slowed thinking, headaches, memory loss, sleep disturbance, attention and concentration deficits, and irritability.

Easing the Transition to the VA

Senator Obama passed an amendment that became law requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to report to Congress on the delayed development of an electronic medical records system compatible with the VA’s electronic medical records system. DOD’s delay in developing such a system has created obstacles for service members transitioning into the VA health care system.

Part of the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act, which Senator Obama reintroduced in January 2007, would help veterans transition from the DOD health system to the VA system by extending the window in which new veterans can get mental health care from two years to five years. The Lane Evans bill also would improve transition services for members of the National Guard and Reserves.

For Equal Time’s sake:

Compare Senator Obama’s site with Senator Clinton’s site, both on Veterans Issues.

Oldtimer

Homeless Goat Patrol

Homeless Goat Patrol

Provided by: NBC News at 11 Alive News

Last Modified: 10/20/2007 11:25:13 AM

  I was thinking about the plight of Wanderingvet reduced to camping on the hillsides of this great country that has managed somehow to neglect our most needy heroes and then I remembered something I wrote some time ago.    I know he would not take advantage of this situation, but I’m sure some homeless would.   I thought my readers might be interested anyway.A herd of goats is being used to clear away the thick brush on the hills surrounding the Corona Heights neighborhood.  A San Francisco neighborhood has come up with a unique way to ward off homeless squatters.A herd of goats is being used to clear away the thick brush on the hills surrounding the Corona Heights neighborhood. The thickets are popular with the homeless, who set up camps in the brush.Many residents worry that their campfires could spark brush fires, while others complain that dirty needles and other trash is often left behind. The goats have already eaten enough grass, shrubs and small trees to expose several campsites.Residents say using the goats to clear the brush is a gentle way to encourage the homeless campers to move along. Once the goats eat the brush that provides them with shelter and camouflage, the squatters are much less likely to camp on the hillsides.Oldtimer’s Comment: This may be a way to reduce the possiblity of fire on particular hillsides but it is not a practical way to fix the homeless “problem”. The homeless will simply move on down the road a little, the goats will eat up the homeowner’s shrubs and wander into the roads and cause wrecks. Meanwhile a few homeless have the opportunity for some fine dinner roasts.  If the goats are confined to fenced areas on the hillside, eventually the vegitation will be reduced to the point the hillside erodes and possibly comes down.  

When I earlier said “Goats will eat all the way to the ground and even pull stuff up by the roots.” I was wrong.  See Goatlady’s comments below.   This statement is hereby retracted.

You can’t fix problems with ideas that just seem good.  This idea is self-serving for the landowners and designed to hurt the homeless rather than help.   Meantime we need to find compassionate ways to help our homeless neighbors. 

Oldtimer

Here is tragic news about goats from LiveLeak.com:

More than 240 goats were killed Friday morning when a big-rig carrying them tipped over in San Rafael’s Canal area.
Many of the animals, en route to clear vegetation in Mill Valley, suffocated when the rig overturned near Irene Street on “The Loop” traffic route, police said.

The truck, owned by Orinda-based Goats R Us, was transporting about 400 animals from Milpitas to the Golden Gate Theological Seminary when the driver pulled off the freeway for a cup of coffee, police said.

Most of these goats did not have to die.  Some were noticed escaping from the back of the truck and so the truck was closed up and the result was a few dozen got loose, but hundreds killed from suffocation afterward because they could not get out.  Another idea to fix a problem that just seemed good but horribly wrong.

Apparently packing them in tightly is the approved way to transport them, how convienent.    

Veteran Job Opportunities Continued

Veteran Job Preference 

 Jobs Available Now

I recently posted two articles on the Labor Department featuring information on Job Discrimination/Preference issues and on Job opportunities through “Hire Vets First“.    In the continuing interest in helping our veteran heroes  who may be out of a job or thinking of finding a better one, or relocating, I’m extending the series on Jobs by featuring a few more sites dedicated to assisting our veterans, including homeless veterans, in finding jobs.

One is  VetJobs.com  Logo of Vetjobs which supplies employment assistance and a job search facility.  I highly recommend that you do the work of reviewing and using the employment assistance page before you jump into doing the job search (it is ok to peek at the job search, but if you don’t do the preparation, you have vastly reduced chances). 

When you reach the job search portion notice that there is an “Age of Jobs” window.  If you don’t select the age of jobs (say posted in last 7 days) then you may get some pretty stale ones.   You can do a keyword search or by type of job (or all)  and select the state (or all).  If it comes up blank, expand to earlier dates, nearby states, or all jobs.

Another is USAJobS USA JOBSwhich has a Veterans’ Employment Resource Center .  Once again, I recommend you start here.  Do the 2 step process, and also look at the “additional veterans’ resources” on the same page before you go to the job search.    These are all government jobs.

When you reach the job search portion, notice the keywords portion which you can leave blank for all jobs or put in words like “management” to get all management jobs.   Again, you can select the age of the posting from 24 hours, 3 days etc.  There is another useful window where you can select a zip code that you are interested in and also select how many miles you are willing to travel.    You can get back to the resource center mentioned above by clicking on the veteran’s tab.

Homeland securtiy needs help, so try their USAJOBS Homeland Security page.

Active Duty family Members looking for a job?  Try DoD’s Military Assistance Program designed for spouses and other members of active duty military.  It seems this site has quite a few active duty readers, so I’ve found this for them.

Military Job Assistance

Be sure to run your cursor over the block labeled “Center Programs Menu” on this page for a set of links to various features of MAP.

Here is another useful link Career One Stop Logo

This link takes you a map where you can click on a state and be directed to that state’s Labor Department or Job Locator.  The site, called America’s Job Bank is no longer in operation, but the map is still there and the Labor Department or other link that it takes you to is current and operational.   Notice before you make a map selection there are links at the bottom right for veterans in case you wish to stay with that route.

Finally (for today’s post) try Corporate Gray logo 

This site does require you to register.  I don’t know the consequences to that.   You can register on most of the other sites as an option (recommeded), but this one requires registration to participate in the job search.

We link employers with transitioning and former military personnel through our Corporate Gray Series of military-to-civilian career transition books, Corporate Gray Job Fairs, and Corporate Gray Online

They list a number of job fairs on the front page.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope you and yours are having (or had) a great Thanksgiving feast and really have a lot to be thankful for.

Anyone that has links to other useful sites are welcome to include them in the comment section and I’ll check them out.  I’m not above editing to add or remove links in this post.  I’m  not interested in posting single job opportunities though (not enough room) , so please limit your links to those with state or national searches that remain current.

Oldtimer. 

  

Veterans Should Know This About Job Discrimination.

Veterans should already know this about job discrimination

But in case you don’t, I’m going to tell you anyway.  If you ever are in need of a job,  or trying to return to a job after military service (and all this applys to homeless veterans as well), or you are disabled and your employer is not accomodating that disablement, you may not know about some programs designed specifically to help you find a new job or return to a job after service.  The first of these is USERRA.

USERRA

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA)  covers virtually every individual in the country who serves in or has served in the uniformed services and applies to all employers in the public and private sectors, including (but not limited to)Federal employers.

 

The law seeks to ensure that those who serve their country can retain their civilian employment and benefits, and can seek employment that is free from discrimination because of their service (public or private employment) . USERRA also provides special protection for disabled veterans, requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability.

 

Basically this law gives veterans certain rights to return to their old jobs if they leave for military service.    Veterans are also protected from civilian/private (non federal) employees denying new employement just becasue of your military service (such as an employer just will not hire former military for some reason).  

 

Veterans that are disabled have a further advantage in requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability.  Veterans applying for federal jobs have a special preference (points) assigned that give them an advantage over non veterans when applying for those jobs.

 

Are you covered by the Law?

Click here to find out if you are covered under this law:   Answer the questions and determine if you are covered. Some of these are service related by particular years. 

Do you think you have been discriminated against?

If you think you have been discrimated against, click here: eLaws USERRA Advisor – Discrimination read what it says, then press “continue” and you will find a series of questions that will lead you to an answer as to whether you have a case.

 If you appear to have a valid basis for filing a complaint, how do you file a claim?

Before filing a complaint, you should discuss your concerns with your supervisor and/or the Federal agency personnel office that took the action. Anyone you choose, including an official of a veterans’ service organization, may help you at any time. If you are unable to resolve the matter with the agency, you should:

  • contact your local State Employment Service office and speak to a Veterans’ Employment Representative or a Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program Specialist. He or she will make sure your information is complete and forward your complaint to the DOL State representative for the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS);

or

  • file a written complaint directly with a DOL Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) Office. Please review the instructions on how to file a complaint form . You will find a link to the form on the instructions page.   This involves downloading a form 1010 available at the instructions link above..

What are your remedies?

Remedies to a claimant under the law may flow from two different processes. The first is the administrative route (handled by the United States Department of Labor, VETS). The second is the litigation route (handled by the U.S. Attorney General or the Office of Special Counsel). Remedies may differ depending on which route is chosen.

Remedies available through the administrative route can include:

  • Return to a job
  • Back pay
  • Lost benefits
  • Corrected personnel files
  • Lost promotional opportunities
  • Retroactive seniority
  • Pension adjustments
  • Restored vacation

The courts can require the employer to comply with the law and restore all compensation referred to above. Where violation is considered willful the court may double any amount due as liquidated damages. The court may NOT, however, impose any punitive damages under USERRA.

There is a lot more to this topic. What I’ve tried to do above is muddle through some of the links and find some shortcuts.  You should go to the USERRA Advisor home page for the full scoop.

I will cover another of these programs designed to help veterans in need of a job tomorrow.

 

Oldtimer

Homeless Vets? Not Again!

Video from Life & Times

This story takes place in Los Angeles.  It is the story of homeless veterans helped by  New Directions, a non-profit organization that focuses on treatment on substance abuse.  It includes interviews with veterans with a form of  PTSD unique to Iraq and Afghanistan and also an extensive interview with the director of New Directions who explains that they receive $28.00 a day for each veteran but spend $60.00 a day to treat them – funds made up elsewhere.  So far they have treated over 5000 veterans.

The link takes you to the Life & Times blog site.  Read the reporter’s notes – they are important to the story.  Then watch the video.  Homeless Vets? Not Again!

 

Homeless Vets Title 

Click on the link above or on the screen to see video

 

VA Stats at a Glance

VA Stats at a Glance

(As of 10-25-07)

VA Stats at a GlanceThe VA publishes what they call  “Stats at a Glance

They don’t say how often it is updated but it likely is monthly.  At least the one I found was updated on 10-25-2007,  just a few days ago.

If so, you can find and track current information on the statistics and demogrphics related to VA Benefits and Health Care Utilization in one easy to read, as they say, at a glance.

I wanted to post the entire paper and not just a thumbnail, but it is posted as a picture and the resolution was not sufficient for easy reading.

Most of the statistics are listed as of 9/30/07.   A few are as of FY 06 and FY 07.  I’m going to list a few of them here.  Click on the link above or on the thumbnail to see the latest data.

Veterans receiving VA Disability Compensation                2.8 million

Veterans rated 100% Disabled                                             249,904

Veterans receiving VA Pensions                                           303,242

 Spouses receiving VA DIC                                                     317,374 

Enrollees in VA Health Care                                                  7.9 million

Unique Patients                                                                       5.5 million

Veterans compensated for PTSD                                         299,672

Health Care Professionals rotating through VA (FYo6)   100,893

Total  number of Veterans                                                  23,532,000

Total Females  (7%)                                                                1,745,000

Number of WWII Veterans that die each day                           1,000

Number of veterans 65 or older (39%)                               9,177,000

By race:  White (non Hispanic)  80%   Hispanic 6%  Black (non Hispanic) 11% Other 4%

Number of VA Employees                                                        254,183

VA Funding   $ 80.2 Billion (not including VHA, VBA, NCA)

——————————————– 

Naturally I want to add a few stats of my own:  

Number of Heroes sleeping on the street every night:  195,000

(also check for similar data here

Number of Heroes homeless during the year (VA estimate)  400,000 

Percentage of all homeless males over 25 that are veterans 43%   (27% of all US males are veterans but 43% of the homeless males over 25 are veterans)

Amount allocated by VA to homeless veterans: $1.37 per day   (cup of coffee anyone?)

Grant money allocated by VA for homeless veterans  33 cents per day (Mints anyone?)

Overview of the homeless veteran problem 

Homeless Veterans are Heroes too!

Oldtimer

 

Video – The Soldier’s Heart – PTSD a Frontline Video Series

The Soldier’s Heart is a 60 minute PBS “Frontline” video series in four parts.  It is available for viewing online here on the PBS Frontline web site.

“Soldier’s heart”  or “nostalgia” are the names given for PTSD after the Cival War.  Later from various wars it became “shell shock”,”battle fatigue”, Post Vietnam Syndrome” and now commonly diagnosed as Post-Tramutic Stress Disorder or PTSD for Combat Trauma and there is a just-as-damaging subset called Military Sexual Trauma or MST. 

Click on the link above for the full introduction and production information from the PBS Frontline Series.    Click on any of the pictures below to watch any of the 4 segments of the video.  Each is 15 minutes long.  Visit the PBS site anyway to get insight and background.  It is interesting and informative reading.   If you have low speed internet, you will need to go to the PBS site link above.  The links below are all high-speed links.

PBS Frontline Homecoming

Homecoming
For three returning Iraq war veterans, it’s when they got home that the feelings, images, smells and nightmares of war began haunting them

The Impact of Combat

The Psychological Impact of Combat
Decades of records have tracked the psychological toll of war on those who fight it. Today, what happens to a soldier who admits to emotional distress and asks for help?

Needing Help

Needing Help
One young Marine, in a downward spiral, keeps his torment and pain bottled up. Another, showing symptoms of PTSD, joins a Camp Pendleton support group.

Need for Change

A Need for Change
A young Marine takes his own life. In January 2005, the military announces plans for better mental health screening of returning vets. Will it be enough?

This series from Frontline is astounding.  If you have not seen it before, please take the time to look at it now.  Visit them here for program notes, insights, background. and links to other videos and excellent programming.

Honor Our Troops

Honor Our Veterans

Help our Homeless Veterans

 

They Are All Heroes!

Oldtimer

Stand Down for Homeless Veterans – Latham, NY

Stand Down lifts up homeless and needy veterans

TV News Article: See article and video here 

LATHAM, NY– Wars may change but the needs of those who return from the fighting do not. Hundreds of veterans from Vietnam, the first Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq are expected to attend the 18th Annual Stand Down for Homeless Vets this weekend. 300 veterans who are homeless or close to being homeless will be matched with services that can, hopefully, get them back on track.

Larry Turner’s windowless office is where the 55 year old does the work that pays his bills and puts food on his table.  “I just love my job a lot. It just has to do with giving back,” he said

Turner helps veterans down on their luck find employment and a place to live for the Albany Housing Coalition. It’s more than a job, because on and off for ten years, Turner himself, was homeless. The former Marine served his country in Vietnam but when he returned, things just weren’t the same.

“Not knowing is scary. You don’t know who to turn to. I mean you are really up against the wall,” said Turner.  That wall turned into an open door for Turner two years ago at the Capital District Veterans Stand Down. It’s a one stop-shop where vets can find jobs and job training, clothes, food, housing and receive free medical help and life counseling.

“These are what makes you and I free, that makes America what it is. They’ve just fallen on hard times for a little bit and we’re hoping they can regroup and we can send them back to the community,” said Stand Down organizer Doug Williams.

The community vets like Larry Turner want to be a part of. Some just need a little assistance.   “They serve their country, as I did. And it’s only right that we help those who are less fortunate,” he said.

The Stand Down is completely free for veterans. It runs from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday October 13 at the Colonie Elks on Elks Road, just off of Rt. 155 in Latham.

Oldtimer’s comment:  Stand Downs are important as they bring out homeless veterans that otherwise don’t seek services, and are often outside of the VA radar.  Like Larry Turner, many do get help through the services and opportunities presented in Stand Downs.  

The only drawback is these Stand Downs are often held, at most, once a year in any given area and they occur in different places at different times of the year and the window of opportunity is short – in this case only 5 hours.  They need to be held regularly, at least quarterly, and on a fixed schedule across the country.  If a veteran knew that Stand Downs were held on the first Saturday of every 3d month across the country, they would know when to show up wherever they are.

Homeless Veteran Hasseled at Truck Stop

This story was passed to me by wanderingvet  (Homeless Veteran Survival Guide)

You can read his account there.   I want to say something about our homeless heroes and how they are often shamefully treated.  

The gist of this particular problem as related by Wandering Vet is that on his way to a Stand Down in Nashville, he was dropped off at a Birmingham truck stop manned by a security guard who seems to have a problem with homeless people and with homeless veterans in particular.  

Never mind that this is a veteran who honorably served active duty in service to our beloved country. 

Never mind that this hero was being very careful to not bother anyone, who had purposely purchased a cola so that he was a paying customer, who had agreed to stand off the property and wait for a ride… never mind all that.  

This is a problem that our homeless friends deal with all the time.   It is a problem that all too often doesn’t differentiate a homeless man from a homeless hero.  To me there is a difference.  We owe these men and women that risk their lives for our country and all too often end up homeless through no fault of their own.   We should do better.

The abuse often starts for our heroes when they first hit the VA radar, sometimes even before.    The VA far too often either fails to properly diagnose a service related problem like PTSD or does so after so much delay that the Hero Veteran, who is unable to hold a job loses his home, then his family, then his pride, and then ends up homeless, living in the streets or the woods.  Sometimes the problem is that the military takes the easy way out and dischages the soldier under a guise of preconditional personality disorder so that they end up without benefits and sometimes charged back for sign up bonus money.

Our veteran heroes make up 27% of our male population but 43% of the homeless male population.   That implies that they are vastly over represented among the homeless.  It is apparent that military service is an overriding causal factor in this overrepresentation.    Our country has a history of such shabby treatment of our veterans!

The abuse continues when a veteran encounters the police who are instructed to move the homeless out of town any way they can.   Unwarranted questions, unwarranted and often illegal searches, unwarranted demands to leave a park or bench or even the county, moved on with threats of arrest.

Homeless veterans suffer the same types of abuse and sometimes violence against them that all of our homeless have to submit to, as it often is not apparent that that homeless man trying to get a meal or asking for a job or looking for a place to camp or for a ride is actually a veteran victim of our system that honors our warriors until they are used up and then dumped on our streets, to be honored no more.  

Heroes don’t stop being heroes just because they have fallen on hard times.  

The Wanderingvet’s story is typical of what all our homeless suffer.  What makes it so egregious is that the security guard and the police both soon knew that he was a veteran, yet he was disrespected instead of shown compassion, forced to give up his rights instead of helped, forced to suffer in the sun instead of given an opportunity to get a ride, forced to walk instead of roll.     

It will be worth your while to check out his story and file a comment with the corporate office of this trucking firm (see the link at the end of his story).  There are two sides to every story, but I come down on the side of those who fought for our freedom, for those who are among our poorest, and those who are willing to fight back, as they are most often in the right.   I filed a complaint.   If enough of us do, maybe the next homeless veteran that comes through Birmingham and stops at the Pilot Fuel Plaza will get the hero treatment he or she deserves.

Keep in mind that it is not so much the trucking firm as it is an employee of a security company and his training and attitude that seem to be an issue here.  However the trucking firm is responsible for the policy of how it handles its customers and any homeless person that comes by and how the security handles it.   The firm should change its policy (in writing) when it comes to compassion for the homeless and in particular for the homeless who have served their country and helped keep us all free – including the truckers. 

Our Heroes Deserve Better Than This!

Oldtimer