Category Archives: Iraq

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

  

 

20% of Iraq, Afghanistan Soldiers Have Depression or PTSD

Veteranstoday.com

Half of Depression and PTSD affected troops untreated

A study published by the Rand Corporation shows that of the 300,000 troops affected by mental disorders of depression or PTSDless than half have been treated.   Yes, that is 150,000 untreated heroes on active dury or recently released to the streets without proper treatment according to this independent study.

Picture from Veterans Today site.  Find it Here

The sad news continues…  About one in five, about 20%, of our Iraq and Afghanistan active dury and veterans suffer from depression or PTSD.

The Rand study says that too many soldiers and Marines are still slipping through the cracks since the symptoms of depression and PTSD can appear months after an incident, and many mental problems that appear later may never be caught, the study said.

The RAND study interviewed 1,965 current and former service members and asked them how many had suffered from PTSD within the previous 30 days and suffered from depression within the previous two weeks.

  • “We have tried to generate this estimate across the entire deployed population,” said Terri Tanielian, one of the study’s authors. “We are looking at the scope of the problem now among the population back in the United States.”

The study shows that 19.5% of veterans had received a concussion or other traumatic brain injury during their combat tour.    The study found that some service members actively avoid a diagnosis of a mental health problem due to a fear of negative consequences of such a diagnosis.    The worry is that co-workers would have less confidence in them after a diagnosis and thus impact their career.

  • “When we asked folks what was limiting them from getting the help that they need, among the top barriers that were reported were really negative career repercussions,” Tanielian said.

Please read the rest of this article (paraphrased above) here:  Veterans Today.

You can get a different take at Medical News Today.  They report that 30% of our soldiers that are on their third or fourth tour have expressed emotional illnesses as gleaned from 2295 anonymous responses to the survey (11.9 % first tour soldiers, 18.5% second tour, 27.2% third tour).

And from the Associated Press at the Atlanta Journal Constitution website.

I encourage you to write the candidates at every government level and all of our current congressmen to encourage them to show their support by increasing the help for these wonderful men and women that have served our country.  Let’s serve them now!

Help our Heroes!

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  

News Flash! Army Reports on Delayed PTSD

Delayed PTSD, Depression,

Family Conflict Data Revealed

Picture by AlyssaAS

Picture by icolman (Creative Commons License – Find it Here)

This study reported in Army.Mil/News found that out of 88,000 returning Iraq war soldiers given Post-Deployment Health Assessments (PDHA), only 4 to 5% of the soldiers assessed in the 18 months prior to Dec 2006 were found to have PTSD, but 3 to 6 months later that number jumped to 20.3 % for active duty soldiers and to an alarming 42.4% for reserve-component soldiers.

We are talking about the same soldiers, delayed PTSD symptoms.   There were other delayed complications/symptoms.  Reported depression symptoms doubled and family conflicts rose from 3.5 to 14 % active duty and from 4.2 to 21.2 % for reserve-component soldiers.

Here is the report:

Army Study Finds Delayed Combat Stress Reporting

Nov 14, 2007
BY Elizabeth M. Lorge

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 14, 2007) – In a study that will appear in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” Wednesday, Army medical officials examined increased Soldier-reported mental-health concerns in mandatory post-deployment health screenings.

Cols. Charles Milliken, M.D. and Charles W. Hoge, M.D., two of the study’s authors, found that between the initial Post-Deployment Health Assessment and the Post-Deployment Health Re-assessment three to six months later, Soldiers are more likely to report signs of post-combat stress and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“These efforts are about taking better care of Soldiers,”said Col. Milliken, the principal investigator at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience during a media roundtable at the Pentagon Friday. “What we’re hoping to do with the screenings is detect mental health problems while they are still small, simple and temporary. When these problems get bigger and more complicated, they are much harder to treat and it increases the likelihood that they will become a chronic, long-term problem.”

The study examined the assessments of 88,235 Iraq veterans completed between June 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006, and found that while only 4 to 5 percent of Soldiers were referred for mental healthcare on the PDHA, three to six months later that number jumped to 20.3 percent for active-duty Soldiers and 42.4 percent for reserve-component Soldiers.

The second set of numbers encompasses the PDHA, PDHRA and Soldiers who were under mental-health care because of self-referral or employee-assistance referrals. According to Col. Milliken, these Soldiers were not necessarily diagnosed with PTSD, but they were exhibiting symptoms that were serious enough that a medical provider wanted to have them evaluated.

Similarly, symptoms of depression reported on the PDHA rose from 5 percent to 10 percent on the PDHRA.

The highest jump the study found between the PDHA and PDHRA were reports of conflict with family and friends. This rose from 3.5 to 14 percent for active-duty Soldiers and 4.2 to 21.1 percent for reserve-component Soldiers.

Although the study didn’t examine causes and effects, Brig. Gen. Stephen L. Jones, assistant surgeon general for force protection, who has deployed twice, suggested Friday that the PDHA numbers may simply be skewed because Soldiers are so happy to go home and haven’t yet interacted with their families.

“When you come back, you’re feeling great, almost euphoric. You don’t have any problems in the world. You’re just glad to be home. And then over the next three-four weeks, you re-establish relationships with your family and the normal stress everybody feels when they return home starts to surface. This is a normal, adaptive response and we would expect the stress levels at home to go up,” he said.

The disparity between active and Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers was a bit more challenging for the study’s authors, especially because they determined that combat exposure for Reserve and National Guard Soldiers was virtually identical to that of active-duty Soldiers, and they reported more physical health concerns as well.

Col. Milliken believes this may be due to the differences in health coverage for reserve-component and active-duty Soldiers. Active-duty Soldiers can go to sick call any time, so he said they may not feel as pressed to report every little concern, but Reserve and National Guard Soldiers only have six months of TRICARE coverage when they return and two years of Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. After that, the VA will pay for service-related injuries or illnesses, if they are documented on forms like the PDHRA.

The PDHRA adds a question about alcohol use, and while 11.8 percent of Soldiers admitted that they might be misusing it, only 0.2 percent of these were referred for a treatment program and still fewer were seen within 90 days.

While acknowledging the Army has a long way to go when it comes to alcohol treatment, and sight the lack of confidentiality as a real roadblock, both Brig. Gen. Jones and Col. Milliken said they were encouraged that so many Soldiers were even willing to report that they had a problem, because the PDHRA becomes part of a Soldier’s permanent medical record.

They also believe that the Army’s efforts to reduce the stigma around PTSD and seeking mental-health assistance, including the chain-teaching and Battlemind programs, are working.

“I think this study shows that we’ve done a pretty good job of reducing the stigma,” said Brig. Gen. Jones. “There’s several factors. Number one: the fact that over half the Soldiers who seek behavioral-health counseling do so within 30 days of the survey and do so on their own. They go in on their own and ask for the counseling. I think the response we’ve gotten to our Soldiers stepping up and saying yeah, I’d like some help is another indication that we’ve helped reduce that stigma.”

Oldtimer’s note:  The picture above is not part of the article.  Taken at the Korean War Memorial, it was released under creative commons license by icolman

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.


 

Help lags for homeless female veterans

About 8,000 women veterans lack permanent shelter. Need is likely to rise as more women return from war.

By Bina Venkataraman | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Page 1 of 3  You will need to go to the link to see the rest of this story

Rachel Caesar, the first American-born in her family of immigrants from Trinidad, served in the National Guard and Army Reserve for 14 years. Today, three years after returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, she’s out of an apartment, out of work, and, on some days, ready to “run away and hide.”

Ms. Caesar still suffers from sleepless nights, jumpiness, and vivid flashbacks of weapon fire and land mine victims. In 2005, her doctors diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); soon after, she had to quit her customer service job of eight years.

After she fell behind in rent, she and her landlord agreed it was time for her to go. “I’m not sure how long I can stay here,” she says, of her mother’s house in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, where she and her two sons have been living for the past two months. “I would go to a shelter, but I don’t want to put my kids through that.”

Like many women who return from war, Caesar – who calls herself “on the verge of homelessness” – is struggling to adjust to civilian life, make ends meet, and find a permanent home.

An estimated 8,000 female veterans are homeless in the US – the most in the nation’s history and a number that is expected to increase as more women return from the war in Iraq. At the same time, services to help these women stay off the streets are lagging behind, say several experts who work with veterans’ issues.

“With the likelihood of more women veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with a need for housing, it’s going to be a major, major issue,” says Cheryl Beversdorf, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, noting that there isn’t enough housing to meet even current demands. “The VA is trying to gear up services for women, but frankly it’s not enough given what we are dealing with.”

Nearly 15 percent of the military is female, which partly explains the increase in female veterans and their homelessness. But of the 260 programs in the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans’ network that give counseling, shelter, and other services to homeless veterans, only eight have special programs for women.

Oldtimer’s comments.   Please read the rest of this important story at the link above.   It highlights the problems that women experience in the military and how that carries over to their civilian life as veterans.   One problem that the writer points out is that women are not adjusting well to considering themselves veterans, even though many of them are in intense combat situations in the military.   Also when they go to veteran’s centers, they are often the only woman in sight, but there are men everywhere.     Women want and need their own space.  Another comment by the writer: 

 “A woman who has served in the military is up to four times more likely to be homeless than a nonveteran woman.”

I believe that is true, and it makes women who served our country even more likely to be homeless than men.  Our veterans, men and women alike, are not being funded or served properly by our govenment.  If you think they are being well served, please read the articles above my banner.   They are based on true facts and you will find the sources there to verify it.  

 Men and Women Warriors, Whether Doing Well, Fallen, Homeless or in Poverty:

They are All Heroes to me!

We need to respect, honor and help them

For all homeless veteran articles 

For all homeless youth articles

Back from Iraq – and suddenly out on the streets

Soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afganistan are beginning to turn up homeless and on the streets in increasing numbers – homeless due in part to high housing costs, gaps in pay, loss of jobs, psychological problems such as PTSD.  The quotes and picture below come from a story researched and written by the Christian Science Monitor.  The story has been shortened here, so please read it in full at the link above.

Picture of Homeless Veteran  

HOME AGAIN: On returning from Iraq, Herold Noel faced the challenges of finding a home and tending to his family. He moved to New York with his wife and children, then became homeless. He now has a new apartment.   COREY SIPKIN/SPECIAL TO THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

By Alexandra Marks | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

NEW YORK – Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are now showing up in the nation’s homeless shelters.   So far, dozens of them, like Herold Noel, a married father of three, have found themselves sleeping on the streets, on friends’ couches, or in their cars within weeks of returning home. Two years ago, Black Veterans for Social Justice (BVSJ) in the borough of Brooklyn, saw only a handful of recent returnees. Now the group is aiding more than 100 Iraq veterans, 30 of whom are homeless.

“It’s horrible to put your life on the line and then come back home to nothing, that’s what I came home to: nothing. I didn’t know where to go or where to turn,” says Mr. Noel. “I thought I was alone, but I found out there are a whole lot of other soldiers in the same situation. Now I want people to know what’s really going on.”

Part of the reason for these new veterans’ struggles is that housing costs have skyrocketed at the same time real wages have remained relatively stable, often putting rental prices out of reach. And for many, there is a gap of months, sometimes years, between when military benefits end and veterans benefits begin.

“We are very much committed to helping veterans coming back from this war,” says Mr. Cameron, executive director of Vietnam Veterans of California. “But the [Department of Veterans Affairs] already has needs it can’t meet and there’s a lot of fear out there that programs are going to be cut even further.”

Beyond the yellow ribbons

Both the Veterans Administration and private veterans service organizations are already stretched, providing services for veterans of previous conflicts. For instance, while an estimated 500,000 veterans were homeless at some time during 2004, the VA had the resources to tend to only 100,000 of them.

“You can have all of the yellow ribbons on cars that say ‘Support Our Troops’ that you want, but it’s when they take off the uniform and transition back to civilian life that they need support the most,” says Linda Boone, executive director of The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

After the Vietnam conflict, it was nine to 12 years before veterans began showing up at homeless shelters in large numbers. In part, that’s because the trauma they experienced during combat took time to surface, according to one Vietnam veteran who’s now a service provider. Doctors refer to the phenomenon as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that 15 to 17 percent of Iraq vets meet “the screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or PTSD.” Of those, only 23 to 40 percent are seeking help – in part because so many others fear the stigma of having a mental disorder.

Many veterans’ service providers say they’re surprised to see so many Iraq veterans needing help so soon.

“This kind of inner city, urban guerrilla warfare that these veterans are facing probably accelerates mental-health problems,” says Yogin Ricardo Singh, director of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program at BVSJ. “And then there’s the soldier’s mentality: Asking for help is like saying, ‘I’ve failed a mission.’ It’s very hard for them to do.”

Beyond PTSD and high housing costs, many veterans also face an income void, as they search for new jobs or wait for their veterans benefits to kick in.

When Mr. Noel was discharged in December of 2003, he and his family had been living in base housing in Georgia. Since they were no longer eligible to live there, they began the search for a new home. But Noel had trouble landing a job and the family moved to New York, hoping for help from a family member. Eventually, they split up: Noel’s wife and infant child moved in with his sister-in-law, and his twins were sent to relatives in Florida. Noel slept in his car, on the streets, and on friend’s couches.

Last spring he was diagnosed with PTSD, and though he’s currently in treatment, his disability claim is still being processed. Unable to keep a job so far, he’s had no steady income, although an anonymous donor provided money for him to take an apartment last week. He expects his family to join him soon.

‘Nobody understood … the way I was’

Nicole Goodwin is another vet diagnosed with PTSD who has yet to receive disability benefits. Unable to stay with her mother, she soon found herself walking the streets of New York, with a backpack full of her belongings and her 1-year-old daughter held close.

“When I first got back I just wanted to jump into a job and forget about Iraq, but the culture shock from the military to the civilian world hit me,” she says. “I was depressed for months. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. The worst thing wasn’t the war, it was coming back, because nobody understood why I was the way I was.”

Ms. Goodwin was determined not to sleep on the streets, and so eventually went into the New York City shelter system where, after being shuffled from shelter to shelter, she was told she was ineligible for help. But media attention changed that, and she was able to obtain a rent voucher. With others’ generosity, she also found a job. She’s now attending college and working with other veterans who are determined to go to Washington with their stories.

“When soldiers get back, they should still be considered military until they can get on their feet,” she says. “It’s a month-to-month process, trying to actually function again. It’s not easy, it takes time.”

Oltimer’s comment:  These heroic men and women have been fighting for our safety and independance, our honor and our flag.  They deserve to be treated better!  Please write to your congressman and to the presidential candidates.   They need to understand what is happening now.

 Oldtimer

Support Our Troops

Our Heroes

Past, Present, and Future

 

Iraq vets and the homeless

Iraq vets and the homeless

By GREGOR McGAVIN
The Press-Enterprise

Army Spc. Joshua Harmon headed home from the ongoing war in Iraq on the Fourth of July. It was 2003 and Harmon had spent three months as a machine gunner on the front lines. He was coming home with a lot of baggage. He said there were nightmares and insomnia. Fear, rage and guilt.

He started at the sound of fireworks and snapped for no reason. He said he felt shame for sleeping in a soft bed while his buddies were still in the desert. A year later, Harmon said he was alone and living on the streets, a victim of the mental scars inflicted by combat and the drugs and alcohol with which he tried to heal them. “I’d walk 14-15 miles at a time, because in my mind, I was still on patrol,” said Harmon, a square-shouldered 27-year-old with close-cropped brown hair and an intense gaze.


Stan Lim / The Press-Enterprise
Joshua Harmon is staying at a sober living home for veterans
in San Bernardino. He spent three months in Iraq and wound
up homeless about a year after his return.

Harmon, who has been in a federally funded housing program in San Bernardino for several months, is one of the new faces of homelessness — veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Experts say growing numbers of former servicemen and women — wracked by post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries and struggling with substance abuse and other ills — are winding up on the streets. It is a problem that military and Veterans Affairs officials and homeless advocates are struggling to cope with. A Department of Defense task force reported last week that “the military system does not have enough resources, funding or personnel to adequately support the psychological health of service members and their families in peace and during conflict.”

Read the rest here

Soldier Who Captured Saddam has PTSD, But VA says No! to war hero.

This is a story from WashingtonPost.com 

By Dana Priest and Anne Hull
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 17, 2007; A01

Army Spec. Jeans Cruz helped capture Saddam Hussein. When he came home to the Bronx, important people called him a war hero and promised to help him start a new life. The mayor of New York, officials of his parents’ home town in Puerto Rico, the borough president and other local dignitaries honored him with plaques and silk parade sashes. They handed him their business cards and urged him to phone.

But a “black shadow” had followed Cruz home from Iraq, he confided to an Army counselor. He was hounded by recurring images of how war really was for him: not the triumphant scene of Hussein in handcuffs, but visions of dead Iraqi children.

In public, the former Army scout stood tall for the cameras and marched in the parades. In private, he slashed his forearms to provoke the pain and adrenaline of combat. He heard voices and smelled stale blood. Soon the offers of help evaporated and he found himself estranged and alone, struggling with financial collapse and a darkening depression.

At a low point, he went to the local Department of Veterans Affairs medical center for help. One VA psychologist diagnosed Cruz with post-traumatic stress disorder. His condition was labeled “severe and chronic.” In a letter supporting his request for PTSD-related disability pay, the psychologist wrote that Cruz was “in need of major help” and that he had provided “more than enough evidence” to back up his PTSD claim. His combat experiences, the letter said, “have been well documented.”

None of that seemed to matter when his case reached VA disability evaluators. They turned him down flat, ruling that he deserved no compensation because his psychological problems existed before he joined the Army. They also said that Cruz had not proved he was ever in combat. “The available evidence is insufficient to confirm that you actually engaged in combat,” his rejection letter stated.

Yet abundant evidence of his year in combat with the 4th Infantry Division covers his family’s living-room wall. The Army Commendation Medal With Valor for “meritorious actions . . . during strategic combat operations” to capture Hussein hangs not far from the combat spurs awarded for his work with the 10th Cavalry “Eye Deep” scouts, attached to an elite unit that caught the Iraqi leader on Dec. 13, 2003, at Ad Dawr.

Veterans Affairs will spend $2.8 billion this year on mental health. But the best it could offer Cruz was group therapy at the Bronx VA medical center. Not a single session is held on the weekends or late enough at night for him to attend. At age 25, Cruz is barely keeping his life together. He supports his disabled parents and 4-year-old son and cannot afford to take time off from his job repairing boilers. The rough, dirty work, with its heat and loud noises, gives him panic attacks and flesh burns but puts $96 in his pocket each day.

Once celebrated by his government, Cruz feels defeated by its bureaucracy. He no longer has the stamina to appeal the VA decision, or to make the Army correct the sloppy errors in his medical records or amend his personnel file so it actually lists his combat awards.

“I’m pushing the mental limits as it is,” Cruz said, standing outside the bullet-pocked steel door of the New York City housing project on Webster Avenue where he grew up and still lives with his family. “My experience so far is, you ask for something and they deny, deny, deny. After a while you just give up.”

An Old and Growing Problem

Jeans Cruz and his contemporaries in the military were never supposed to suffer in the shadows the way veterans of the last long, controversial war did. One of the bitter legacies of Vietnam was the inadequate treatment of troops when they came back. Tens of thousands endured psychological disorders in silence, and too many ended up homeless, alcoholic, drug-addicted, imprisoned or dead before the government acknowledged their conditions and in 1980 officially recognized PTSD as a medical diagnosis.

Yet nearly three decades later, the government still has not mastered the basics: how best to detect the disorder, the most effective ways to treat it, and the fairest means of compensating young men and women who served their country and returned unable to lead normal lives.

Cruz’s case illustrates these broader problems at a time when the number of suffering veterans is the largest and fastest-growing in decades, and when many of them are back at home with no monitoring or care. Between 1999 and 2004, VA disability pay for PTSD among veterans jumped 150 percent, to $4.2 billion.

By this spring, the number of vets from Afghanistan and Iraq who had sought help for post-traumatic stress would fill four Army divisions, some 45,000 in all.

They occupy every rank, uniform and corner of the country. People such as Army Lt. Sylvia Blackwood, who was admitted to a locked-down psychiatric ward in Washington after trying to hide her distress for a year and a half [story, A13]; and Army Pfc. Joshua Calloway, who spent eight months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and left barely changed from when he arrived from Iraq in handcuffs; and retired Marine Lance Cpl. Jim Roberts, who struggles to keep his sanity in suburban New York with the help of once-a-week therapy and a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs; and the scores of Marines in California who were denied treatment for PTSD because the head psychiatrist on their base thought the diagnosis was overused.

They represent the first wave in what experts say is a coming deluge.

As many as one-quarter of all soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq are psychologically wounded, according to a recent American Psychological Association report. Twenty percent of the soldiers in Iraq screened positive for anxiety, depression and acute stress, an Army study found.

But numbers are only part of the problem. The Institute of Medicine reported last month that Veterans Affairs’ methods for deciding compensation for PTSD and other emotional disorders had little basis in science and that the evaluation process varied greatly. And as they try to work their way through a confounding disability process, already-troubled vets enter a VA system that chronically loses records and sags with a backlog of 400,000 claims of all kinds.

The disability process has come to symbolize the bureaucratic confusion over PTSD. To qualify for compensation, troops and veterans are required to prove that they witnessed at least one traumatic event, such as the death of a fellow soldier or an attack from a roadside bomb, or IED. That standard has been used to deny thousands of claims. But many experts now say that debilitating stress can result from accumulated trauma as well as from one significant event.

Oldtimer’s comment:  This story makes my head hurt.  It turns my stomach.  These men and women are Heroes.  They deserve better.  We cry “support our troops”  and yet this is allowed to continue to grow worse.

It is this kind of service by the VA that ends up making Heroes homeless or living in poverty.     NOTE:  I’ve posted only a part of the story.  Please go to the link above for the rest of it!

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