Category Archives: Vietnam

Vietnam Veteran Loses Arm for Second Time

Teresa Yonkers of the Florida VA Team  aka Soldier’s Angels asked for me to help put out the following alert copied from their website:

(Click picture for video)

Vietnam Veteran Mitch Robertson and his wife Vickie left their home in Montebello, Virginia for their vacation in Destin, Florida. On their way they stopped in Gaffney, South Carolina at a hotel for the night. When they woke up their vacation had turned bad.

Mitch and Vickie went out to their car and found that someone had broken in and stolen their bags. In one of those bags was a Prosthetic Arm that helped give Mitch his freedom.

Mitch had lost his entire left arm when his helicopter crashed in Vietnam. The prosthetic arm that was stolen is a bionic model that was made specifically for Mitch. Mitch not only has lost his arm but is also slowly dying from Agent Orange. The new bionic arm gave him hope that his remaining years would be easier and that it would give him the freedom to do things he hasn’t done in 38 years.

Mitch put out a plea saying that who ever broke into his vehicle can keep his suitcase full of clothes and even the electronics that he had in there for his boat but please give him back his arm.

Our own Lori Tucker, SouthEast Regional Manager for the VA Team contacted Mitch and Vickie today. Lori asked Vickie what can Soldiers’ Angels do to help. Vickie’s response: For right now please just help us get the word out.

So to help this Veteran get his freedom back I’m posting this.

Here is some information on how to spot the bag:

-The arm is in a black and yellow duffell bag
-MHC Prosthetics is written on the bag
-the charger in the bag has the phone number of the company who made the arm

Link to Video   (from Channel 7)

(or click picture above)

Any one in the Gaffney, South Carolina area should be on the lookout and with ears wide open.  It is not likely the thief will try to pawn it or to sell it, but it is likely they will keep it around for the novelty of it and word will get around, so if you hear something from your kids or neighbors about someone with an extra arm or showing one off, or if you find one discarded somewhere, or it is donated somewhere, please call the direct number to the manufacturer 1- (540)-292-1165  (number is on the charger) or contact me through my blog or contact the Florida Angels througth their website and also the local police and give them this story.  If you have a blog of your own, consider posting this story there also!

Oldtimer

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  

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 

The New Homeless

The New Homeless

We see them from time to time on our streets… We hear about the difficulties they face in life. They are America’s homeless. But, did you know, that the man or woman traveling from shelter to shelter could in the past have been serving our country and protecting the freedoms we enjoy? How do they face the future of unknowns?

Find this story on this station
Jerry Brown
News 13 on your side
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

News 13 looks at “The New Homeless”.

Homeless Veteran“Just being a young man…seeing guys disappear…not being confirmed dead,” recalls Patrick Doyle on his days in the Vietnam War. Gulf War Vet John Powell says, “things don’t tend to go the way their planned during war. People get crazy…you end up seeing things you wouldn’t normally see.” Nilsson Riley from most recently in Iraq comments, “one of my best friends got killed…was trying to save his life. My first sergeant got killed.”

United States military veterans. from three different wars. They well know the extreme, emotional experience of serving our country in time of armed conflict. And the uncertainties. And for some, when their tour of duty is over…the return to civilian life isn’t always easy. Obstacles they face are too difficult to overcome. Before they know it, they find themselves walking the streets…without a job and, without a place to call home.

The U-S Department of Veteran’s Affairs says there are approximately 20-thousand homeless vets in the state of Florida. The V-A also says at least 1700 homeless veterans are in the Gulf Coast region from Port St. Joe west to Biloxi, Mississippi. “When I got to the airport I got spit on…called a baby killer. No parade to come back to. That was one of the roughest parts for me,” says Vietnam veteran Patrick Doyle. Homeless since 2003, Doyle says in the years after the war his life only got worse. Doyle says Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is what he deals with every single day. That is also the case for other homeless veterans facing PTSD, along with drug and alcohol addiction. Gulf War homeless vet John Powell says, “that kind of stuff brought me to my knees, losing your wife and my kids…integrity. Nilsson Riley, who served with the U-S Army in Iraq says, “I got a job and had to go on med leave… because the problems and meds from V-A required to take to cope with PTSD.”

Getting Help

But, these veterans in Panama City have found help and at the same time…hope. The Homeless Veterans Emergency Administration is Bay County’s first homeless vet’s program. It is a relatively new facility that serves not only as a temporary shelter, but also a source of helpful assistance. Deborah Hanley is the administrator. She says, “we always pray for them in church…when they are in war. When they come home, we forget about them.”

At this shelter, homeless veterans get the helping hand to put them back on track…information about jobs or medical care. But, in this trying time in life…is the government really offering the help they need? John Powell says, “when we are asked to go and fight and no questions asked if we have issues that are evaluated as having issues that need to be tended to…service related…I think the government should step up.” One place that offers help is the Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic.

It is located at the Naval Support Activity Panama City. Dr. William Michels is the director of the clinic. He says, “started six years ago with 3 employees built up to 30 now…each brings something special to offer vets. I am sure the money will be increased to handle this increased demand.” Dr. Michels says one big problem is that the homeless vets and sometimes…veterans in general don’t take advantage of what is offered.

Heroes are out there too

Click for all Homeless Veterans posts

FACT: 43% of Homeless Males Over 25 are Veterans!

Fact:  If military service were not a causal factor in veteran homelessness, only 27% of homeless would be veterans! 

In a previous post I’ve documented sources for several statistics relevant to homeless veterans.  The data in that post has been carefully researched and represent a significant improvement from my earlier attempts.  These new statistics include the percent of the total male homeless over 25 that are veterans (43%).    Let me present a couple of relevant charts for those of us who are more visually oriented.

US vs Veteran Population

The chart at the left shows that veterans make up 11.7% of the total US population 18 or older. 

 The figures are documented in the document linked above.

Our total population is 301.9 million and 74.6 percent of us are 18 or older, old enough to enlist.  That works out to be just over 225 million, male and female.

The veteran count, also documented in the link above, includes both wartime and peace time living veterans.

                                                                                                                                              

Male US Population vs VeteransThe chart at the left is the same except only the male populations are charted.  

I’ve chosen to use this chart as it more reasonably represents the age and demographics of homeless veterans. 

We also get to compare similar demographics between charts.   Less than 1% of veterans under 25 are homeless.  Less than 0.3% of homeless vets are women.

 The total US Male population 25 and older is 93,800,000.   The total male veterans 25 and older is 24,910,000.

Male Veterans Make Up 27% Of  Male Population Over 25.

                                                                                                                                                       

43% of Homeless Men Over 25 are Veterans!

25 and older male homeless vetsThe chart at the left shows that male homeless veterans make up 43% of the male homeless over 25.  The data is documented in the previous post link above.

If the homeless veterans were representative of the US male population, you would expect that the last two charts would look very similar. 

You would expect the male homeless veterans to represent about 27% of the homeless population

Veterans are grossly overrepresented  in the homeless population.

                                                                                                                                                

The Department of Veterans Affairs says this about the homeless veterans:

Although many homeless veterans served in combat in Vietnam and suffer from PTSD, at this time, epidemiological studies do not suggest that there is a causal connection between military service, service in Vietnam, or exposure to combat and homelessness among veterans.”

The VA Claims “No Causal Connection To Service”

OK, I think the charts above put the lie to that statement.  If there were no causal relationship, the homeless veterans would total less than 123,000 instead of the 200,000 that are homeless on any given night and the pie charts would look essentially the same.  It is my opinion that PTSD and substance abuse problems acquired while in service play a major role in the lives of homeless veterans.  

The VA goes out of its way to try to acquit PTSD and combat service as causal effects.  Why do that do that?  Why even bring it up at all?  Could it be that they know that military service is a factor to homeless veterans (big time)  but do not want to pay for it?  Smoke screens that try to let us believe they have considered those things and found them not a factor?   Well….  something is a factor and it is time the VA took its head out of the sand!

I call on our Congress to get to the bottom of this and fix it. 

These are men and women that put on uniforms and took up arms in service to our country and so far our country has been too cheap to treat them as the Heroes that they are.

Oldtimer:  Click for All Homeless Veteran Posts.  

Homeless Veterans – Facts By the Numbers

Published Statistics Vary Greatly 

I’ve seen a lot of statistics that vary from source to source all over the place.  Most of them not referencing their source, many of them not being specific on the definitions or the exact group being cited.  I’m going to attempt to put down some numbers that come from trusted sites and clarify the statistics as best I can.    Links are to sources.  We will try to make sense of these numbers in a later post – stay tuned.

The total population of the United States: 

As of May 19, 2007: 301,875,007.  Source US Census Population Clock.  If the number above doesn’t agree it is because we have a net gain of one person every 11 seconds.  

By Census Bureau sex and age, 49% are male, 51% female, 74.6% (225,200) are 18 or older, 48% (114,900,000) male over 18, 52% female over 18.   The total male population over 25 is 92,800,000 men.

The total population of veterans:

 (Includes Peacetime Veterans): 26,403,000, of which 24,810,000 are men and 1,593,000 are women as of census 2000. 

The total population of wartime veterans:  

(Wartime Only):  19,157,000 of which  18,073,000 are men and 1,084,000 are women as of 2004.   

Veterans under age 25:   0.8% (153,000) are men and 0.3% (58,000) are women.

Total estimated spending for veterans:

 (Dollars in 2004):  $62.0 Billion for 2004 ($234 per veteran).

Where veterans Served:

By Service 2002 :  WWII 4,762,000;   Korean 3,733,000; Vietnam 8,293,000; Persian Gulf War 3,573,000;  Peacetime 6,461,000.  

Homeless veterans:

There are 200,000 homeless veterans on any one day, up to 400,000 during any year; 97% of the homeless veterans (194,000) are male, and 3% (6,000) female on any one day.  These are the VA’s best estimates.  No one is really counting.  56% (112,000) are African American or Hispanic.  

Of these 45% (86,000) suffer from mental illness and (with considerable overlap) 73% (146,000) suffer from alcohol and substance abuse. 

Total US homeless population:  

2005 Estimate:  Approximately 744,313 people homeless on a single night.  This includes 56% in shelters, 44% unsheltered; 59% single adults, 41% in families (98,452 families counted); 23% chronically homeless (171,200 disabled and long term or repeatedly homeless ).   The 172,000 chronically homeless use up 50% of the services. 

Of the total homeless population, 66 % (491,000) are males;   93% (456,700) of homeless males are 25 or older;  41% (201,000) of the males are employed as compared to 27% (68,300) of females.

Calculated Results: 

43% of homeless males 25 and older are veterans.   How do I arrive at that value?   The number of homeless males 25 and over is 456,700 and the number of homeless male veterans is 194,000.   I beleive this is as valid as the counts that make up the data.   There are less than 1% veterans under 25 and about 0.3% homeless women veterans.      

27% of all males over 25 are veterans but 43% of all homeless males are veterans.   There is a disconnect here, the percentages should be about the same.   This 27% calculation uses 24,910,000 male veterans 25 and over and 92,823,000 US males 25 and over.    

Stay tuned – work in progress – this post will be updated and a new post will massage and chart these numbers

Click for All Homeless Veterans Articles