Tag Archives: Congress

VA overrates its success stories

VA overrates its success stories

This problem was first brought to light by an article written by Chris Adams that appeared in the Ledger Enquirer in an article printed May 11, 2007.  

The McClatchy Newspapers study shows that the VA has “habitually exaggerated” its success stories in ways that would assure Congress that the agency is doing a good job of caring for our soldier heroes.   The indented areas below are details taken from the article linked above.  Large portions of the original article are omitted and others paraphrased.  You should take the time to read the original article in its entirety to get all the details.  

The agency has touted how quickly veterans get in for appointments, but its own inspector general found that scheduling records have been manipulated repeatedly.

For example, on Oct. 2, 2003, a veteran was referred to an ophthalmology clinic. On May 3, 2004, a scheduler created an appointment, saying the “desired date” was June 21. The appointment was scheduled for June 23, the inspector general said.

Actual waiting time: 264 days. Reported waiting time: two days. Some schedulers even kept “informal waiting lists” to consult when they were ready to make formal appointments.

The VA boasted that its customer service ratings are 10 points higher than those of private-sector hospitals, but the survey it cited shows a far smaller gap.

The article details how that the gap narrows to 3 points (still favorable but not nearly 10 points higher) when adjusted to the same conditions.  

Regarding the key issue of PTSD treatment, the VA said this about the PTSD treatment teams: “There are over 200 of them,” Dr. Michael Kussman told a congressional subcommittee. He indicated that they were in all of the agency’s roughly 155 hospitals.

When McClatchy asked for more detail, the VA said that about 40 hospitals didn’t have the specialized units known as “PTSD clinical teams.” Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate and experts within the VA have encouraged the agency to put those teams into every hospital.  

Dr. Jonathan Perlin, then the top VA health official, said in a radio interview that RAND “compared VA care to 12 other health-care organizations, some of the best in the country,” and found VA superior. Studies such as RAND’s showed the agency’s care to be “the best that you can get in the country,” he said.

Kussman wrote in a statement to McClatchy earlier this year that RAND “recently” reported that veterans “receive better health care than any other patients in America.”

The VA’s public affairs department wrote in a magazine that the study “was conducted by the RAND Corporation, an independent think tank,” as well as researchers from two universities.

Those are pretty lofty statements, but as it turns out, the RAND study was neither fully independent nor all that recent. A VA grant helped pay for it. Two of its main authors had received VA career-development awards, and four of its nine listed authors were affiliated with the agency, according to the study’s documentation.

It was published in 2004 but used data from 1997 to 1999, when the system treated far fewer patients than it does now.  In additon, the “12 other health care organization” were not organizations at all but 12 health care regions under many mixed organizational entities.

Once again, we see some deliberate misleading statements from the VA, often directly to Congress.  Yet they seem to get away with it.  

Oldtimer

How many homeless youth are there?

How many Kids are Homeless?

There is a  Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report to Congress with information on this subject titled Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues which was published in January 2007.  This link is to their 37 page report. 

I think they are being honest when they say this:

The precise number of homeless and runaway youth is unknown due to their residential mobility and overlap among the populations. Determining the number of these youth is further complicated by the lack of a standardized methodology for counting the population and inconsistent definitions of what it means to be homeless or a runaway.

Estimates of the homeless youth population range from 52,000 to over one million.  Estimates of runaway youth – including “thrownaway” youth – are between 1 million and 1.7 million.

Part of the problem of counting homeless youth is that they often avoid shelters and more or less hide in inaccessable areas where they avoid counters.  Some hide out with friends, others take to the woods and alleys, even the rails.  You may have seen an earlier post of mine (Homeless Youth Project) where loose groups of homeless youth ride the rails around the country.  Youth that do come into contact with census counters are reluctant to admit that they are homeless.    

The 52,000 to over 1 million estimates are based on a series of counting attempts through the decades.    A 1987 GAO report estimated 52,000 to 170,000 homeless on any one night.  CDC’s 1992 National Health Interview Survey of youth ages 12 to 17 determined that 5% of those they surveyed had been homeless during some part of the prior year.  That estimate came to more than a million youth that experienced homelessness during that year.

The latest federal survey was conducted by NISMART – (National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children) which was conducted in 1999.  That study found that 1.8 million youth under age 18 left home or were asked to leave home in 1999 (at some time during the year). 

The NISMART-2 study for 1999 shows that:

1.8 million youth under age 18 experienced homelessness

68% were between the ages of 15 and 17 (1,224,000)

32% were 14 or younger (612,000) 

20% reported sexual abuse in the home (360,000)

33% reported family conflict in the home (600,000)

there were about an equal number of males and females

57% were White, 17% Black, 15% Hispanic

about 11,000 were runaway foster children

more than half left home for more than 1 to 6 days

30% traveled 1 to 10 miles from home

30% traveled 11 to 50 miles from home

nearly 99% were returned to their homes

That leaves more than 18,000 that never came back that year.

Another study, reported by Jan Moore,  Unaccompanied and Homeless Youth Review of Literature (1995-2005)  ,  reported 1 million to 1.3 million homeless youth.   I reported on this study earlier, see How many of the Homeless are Youth? 

Also see a forum report I presented in 2006 on the Cobb Faith Partnership site titled:  Homelessness Among Children and Youth – Basic Facts in which 1.35 million homeless children are reported homeless in a given year, according to the National Law Center.    The numbers seem to be centering around 1.3 million with a spread of 300,000 either way.   I feel that the numbers probably fluctuate wildly on any given day in any given year, much like trying to get the average level of a raging river.

Factors Influencing Homelessness and Leaving Home:  Youth most often cite family conflict as the major reason for their homelessness or episodes of running away. A literature review of homeless youth found that a youth’s relationship with a step-parent, sexual activity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, school problems, and alcohol and drug use were strong predictors of family discord.  14% of Foster kids that age out of the system experience homelessness the first year and 25% at sometime overall.   Another report shows 20%.

Of those callers who used the National Runaway Switchboard (a federally-sponsored call center for youth and their relatives involved in runaway incidents) one third attributed family conflict as the reason for their call.  Runaway and homeless youth also describe abuse and neglect as common experiences.  Over 20% of youth in the NISMART-2 reported being physically or sexually abused at home in the prior year
or feared abuse upon returning home.

Congress has funded 102 million dollars for three federal funded programs:

Basic Center Program: To provide outreach, crisis intervention, temporary shelter, counseling, family unification, and after care services to runaway and homeless youth under age 18 and their families.

Transitional Living Program: To support projects that provide homeless youth ages 16 to 21 with stable, safe longer-term residential services up to 18 months (or longer if the youth has not reached age 18), including counseling in basic life skills, interpersonal skills building, educational advancement, job attainment skills, and physical and mental health care. 

Street Outreach Program: To provide street-based outreach and education, including treatment, counseling, provision of information, and referrals for runaway, homeless, and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk of being subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation.

Those are the facts on homeless youth, the best that I can report at this time.   You can select whatever set of data suits your purpose, but it appears the most current data comes in somewhere between 1 and 1.8 million kids that experience homelessness in any given year, centering around 1.3 million youth.  

There is no good estimate as to how many that amounts to on any given night, but if you are one of those kids, it is way too many. 

Those are our kids out there

Some Special Links:

Click to see all Oldtimer Speaks Out homeless youth articles (35 so far).

Click here if you came here to find Oldtimer’s articles on Homeless Veterans (75 so far)

Grace and Peace,

Oldtimer

Homeless Veterans Want to Be Remembered on Memorial Day

Homeless Veterans Want to Be Remembered on Memorial Day

By: AMVETS
Published: May 22, 2007 at 06:48
 

Memorial Day was established as a day of remembrance in honor of Americans who have lost their lives while serving their country.  But Joe Lansford of Alexandria believes that Americans should also use the occasion to remember living veterans in Indiana and across the country who struggle with homelessness because of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ failure to provide them with timely healthcare and disability payments when they completed their military service. 

Lansford, a 52-year-old Vietnam Navy veteran who helped evacuate Americans and Vietnamese during the fall of Saigon, was homeless several times after he left the service in 1980 and lived a wretched existence in everything from makeshift tents to abandoned buildings as he struggled with alcoholism and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). “When I left the service, they didn’t give me any kind of medical evaluation,” he said. “They just handed me my discharge papers and my final check.  It took the VA more than 20 years to figure out I had PTSD.”  And even after doctors diagnosed Lansford with PTSD six years ago, 21 years after he completed his military service, it took the VA another two years to approve his disability pension.“The VA rejected my application for disability the first time, even though several doctors said I had PTSD,” Lansford said.   “These delays are one reason why so many veterans end up homeless.”Indeed, according to VA’s own statistics, more than 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.(…)
“Members of Congress should do veterans a favor this Memorial Day and study the recommendations for reform that were provided to them by AMVETS last year,” said Tom McGriff, AMVETS’ national commander. “I would also encourage members of the public to write their congressmen and encourage them to read the report and to take action on the recommendations that were made to them.”

A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America’s Armed Forces, AMVETS is the only veterans service organization that represents members of every branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserve. AMVETS provides support for veterans and the active military in procuring their earned entitlements as well as community services that enhance veterans’ quality of life. More information on AMVETS can be found at http://www.amvets.org/

Oldtimer’s Comment:  I applaud the AMVETS for all they do! 

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.  

Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues

Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues

Report to Congress
Runaway and Homeless Youth:
Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues
January 8, 2007

Congress began to hear concerns about the vulnerabilities of the runaway
population in the 1970s due to increased awareness about these youth and the establishment of runaway shelters to assist them in returning home. Since that time, Congress has authorized services to provide support for runaway and homeless youth outside of the juvenile justice, mental health, and child welfare systems. The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), as currently amended, authorizes federal funding for three programs to assist runaway and homeless youth — the Basic
Center Program (BCP), Transitional Living Program (TLP), and Street Outreach Program (SOP) — through FY2008.

 The basic purposes of the programs and funding for the programs are summarized in this

pdf icon 37 page pdf Report to Congress available to read or download