Tag Archives: Heroes

December 21 – Homeless Memorial Day

December 21 

Homeless Memorial Day

memorial day poster

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

(Find the poster here)

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

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

Compared to the general population, the homeless :

Are 3 times more likely to die at any given age 

Middle aged men and young women are most at risk

Have a life span 28 years less than national average

Have 6 times the incidence of serious illnesses

Die from illnesses that are easily treated or prevented

Who live in shelters have high risk of communicable diseases

Have a high incidence of death from heart problems or cancer

Risk death on the streets from cold

Have 8 times the risk of dieing from Frostbite 

Too often die on the streets from unprovoked hate crimes

Lack access to quality health care. 

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

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

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

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

Oldtimer

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Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans

New Report –

Vital Mission:

Ending Homelessness

Among Veterans

Homeless Veteran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following comes directly from the report:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Heroes

are out there tonight

and it is so very cold!

Oldtimer

Wounded warriors battle with VA – Story and Videos

Wounded Warriors Battle With VA

I watched a horrifying story on CNN last night.  I missed it on regular programming, checked the programming guide and waited for the midnight repeat.   The CNN title of the story was:

Broken Government: Waging War on the VA

It repeats tonight, Sunday night (Nov 18) at 8 Eastern, so if you get a chance, please check your schedule.   It is a powerful indictment of the VA’s handling of disability claims.  It is the story of 3 wounded veterans trying to get justice and only able to do it by virtually going to war again to fight for their rights.

One of the wounded warriors and a really heartbreaking story was Ty Ziegel, 25 years old who had been severely injured by a suicide bomber, “sent back to the states to die”, but lived.  Despite losing nearly half of his skull and a large portion of his brain, penetrating shrapnel and bone fragments in his brain, with both ears, nose and lips burned off and impossible to replace,  loss of an eye and resulting enormous disfiguration, the VA listed him as having “10% head trauma”.  10% head trauma.  In addition the damage to the left lobe of his brain,  loss of an eye and jaw fracture as haveing 0% trauma.  0% for loss of 1/4 of his brain, loss of an eye? He also lost one arm at the elbow, and two fingers and a thumb from his other hand, plus numerous other injuries for which the bulk of his small disability payment was granted.    Far below the poverty line disability for a man disfigured and totally disabled.

Ty Ziegel before and after

Ty Ziegel, before and after.   CNN News photo

(Click on the picture or here to see the video).  These videos are short promo clips about 2 minutes long and I don’t know how long they will keep them up on their site.  Go to  CNN and see the real thing.  Click here for part 2

Another veteran, Garrett Anderson received a roadside bomb injury that sent shrapanel into his head and body, and he lost an arm while driving a truck in a convoy.  The VA initially rejected his claim, saying that it was “not service connected”.   He was also suffering from what he thought was PTSD.  In Garrett’s case the letter stating that there were “shrapnel wounds all over his body, not service connected” had the signature cut out of the letter with a knife.  Apparently the signer was not proud of his decision and knew it was wrong.  

Garrett Anderson

Garrett Anderson.  Click on the picture or here for the video clip.

In Ziegel’s case, within 48 hours of taping an interview with CNN, the VA changed his disability to 100%.  In Anderson’s case, his wife took a sneak peak at his case file while a nurse was out of he room and she discovered they had  him listed in their files a suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), but had failed to tell him or give him any disability credit for it.   He went to Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois who turned up the pressure on the VA and subsequently has been awarded disability for TBI.

The third story was about Tammy Duckworth who lost both legs and had severe injuries to one arm and her body.   She later ran for Congress with the hope of improving things for disabled veterans.  She lost but has been appointed by the Governor of Illinois to be the Director of the IL Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Click here for the CNN news promo clip for her story.  Go to the link with Tammy’s name above and click on “veteran’s issues” to get a flavor of what she has learned about the Va while she was in their care and her run for Congress.

Our wounded warriors, our heroes, should not have to fight for our country, then fight for their life and still have to fight for their benefits!

Oldtimer

 

Women Warriors

U.S. Department of

Veterans Affairs

Seal

 Women Veterans:  Past Present and Future

Revised and Updated

 May 2005

Robert E. Klein, Ph.D.,
Office of the Actuary
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy,
Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Preparedness

I thought we should give some thought on this Veterans Day weekend to our women warriors.   (Download Full 27 Page Document Here)

 The above document has been prepared by the VA and may be of interest to our women warriors and veterans.  All the bold print above and below are copied directly from the VA document.

     “Women are a vital part of the armed forces and the community of veterans. The study of women veterans begins with the history of women in the military and the changing role of women in the military.”

Brief Outline:

Women in the Military: A Historical perspective in Brief

The Population of Women Veterans

Age

Geographic Distribution

Race and Hispanic Origin

Marital Status

Socio-Economic Characteristics

Educational Attainment

Employment

Family Income

Use of VA Benefits

Compensation

Pension 

Educational Benefits, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Employment

VA Home Loan Guarnaty

VA Life Insturance

VA Burial Benefits

Health Care

 

A Final Thought :         “The important role of women in our nation’s defense and as part of the veteran population over the years cannot be over-stated nor covered adequately in these few short pages.  Their history is a glorious one and sadly one not always acknowledged or appreciated.  With time, however, has come deserved recognition, both for women in the military and for women as veterans.  And with their projected larger numbers, with full integration in all branches, including combat units, and with greater racial and ethnic diversity in the armed forces, women will change the face not only of our military, but of our veteran population as well.  Women will make up a larger share of the veteran population, add to its diversity, and require veteran services geared to their specific needs.  The debt owed to all our veterans and to women in particular demands nothing less than full attention and action.”

 The above document may be downloaded here

They are All Heroes

They Are Veterans

Oldtimer
 

VA Stats at a Glance

VA Stats at a Glance

(As of 10-25-07)

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

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

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

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

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

Veterans receiving VA Disability Compensation                2.8 million

Veterans rated 100% Disabled                                             249,904

Veterans receiving VA Pensions                                           303,242

 Spouses receiving VA DIC                                                     317,374 

Enrollees in VA Health Care                                                  7.9 million

Unique Patients                                                                       5.5 million

Veterans compensated for PTSD                                         299,672

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

Total  number of Veterans                                                  23,532,000

Total Females  (7%)                                                                1,745,000

Number of WWII Veterans that die each day                           1,000

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

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

Number of VA Employees                                                        254,183

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

——————————————– 

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

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

(also check for similar data here

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

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

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

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

Overview of the homeless veteran problem 

Homeless Veterans are Heroes too!

Oldtimer

 

Veteran’s Day – November 11, 2007

Veterans Day  

  November 11, 2007 

Veteran's Day Poster

Remember and Honor our Heroes!

For they are Heroes Forever

 

 

 

Click Here for More Information on Veterans

Want your own posters for Veterans Day?  Download and print them free.

Good News! Patriot Guard – Mission Accomplished!

Patriot Guard completes work on veteran’s house 

Oct 15, 2007 – 04:01:32 CDT

Mission accomplished! In three months time Bob Thorberg’s Mandan home has gone from a date with the wrecking ball to a little piece of heaven.  Back in June the Mandan city commission had gone as far as to award the demolition contract for Thorberg’s home, deeming the dilapidated structure a health hazard.Patriot Guard working on Living Room Patriot Guard at work in Living Room

Living Room Finished 

Living Room Finished

(North Dakota Patriot Guard photos were not part of the original story) 

 In stepped Rick Colling, upset with the situation surrounding the aging military veteran, he asked for the opportunity to restore the house into a home suitable for habitation. The city commission gave him that chance.  Colling, a member of the North Dakota Patriot Guard, asked the organization for help financially and in manpower. The organization responded with $3,750, which it requested that Colling match. He did far better, with $7,000 in cash donations and $14,300 in materials.

(Oldtimer’s Comment:  The you may have seen the Patriot Guard at work in your community – they are the patriot’s from around the country that show up on motorcycles  at military funerals and guard and honor our fallen heroes). 

Perhaps more importantly were the volunteer hours in doing the work. Colling, himself, has worked tirelessly on the project and has been the driving force, as the number of helping hands varied from day-to-day and dwindled the longer the project took.  “I more or less took a leave of absence from work and have been putting in 10 to 14 hour days, seven days a week,” Colling said. “I knew there was going to be a lot of work; what I didn’t know was how much time I’d have to put in.”

The 49-year-old Colling is originally from Bismarck, having moved to Mandan in 2004. He is self-employed as a life insurance agent.  The house, platted in 1889, was in extremely bad condition, Colling said. It had to be gutted and reconstructed. The exterior was reshingled, got new siding and soffit, windows, and the porch was rebuilt. The yard was cleaned. The furnace, dating back to the early 1900s, was replaced with a new forced central air system.

The hardest part was the deconstruction. More than 120 cubic yards of debris was removed as the plaster and lattice came out.  Colling admitted there were days when he didn’t think it would get done. He set a lot of deadlines along the way and never met one. Except the last one.

“I wanted to be done by the pheasant opener and we are, with the exception of a few odds and ends. Bob’s ready to start moving in,” Colling said. “I wanted to see this finished, and that’s what kept me going.”

A lot of credit goes to Craig Haug, Matt Hartl, Randy Lindberg, Darcy Ritter, Tara Hartl and Susan Beehler, according to Colling. They have been the steadiest volunteers, and the expertise they’ve brought has been invaluable.

“The guys that have stuck with it are those that like to do this kind of work. They take a lot of pride in their work and don’t do anything halfway,” Colling said.

The reconstruction of his home has been an ordeal for Thorberg. Two of his three dogs had to be destroyed and the pup given a new home. Not long after this, early in August, Colling found Thorberg sleeping in his bed in the basement unresponsive and nearly comatose. Thorberg was taken to the hospital and was found to be suffering from a blood-borne infection.

Since his release from the hospital, Thorberg has been staying at the Lewis and Clark Hotel, building his strength and awaiting for the chance to move back into the only home he’s ever known.

“Bob’s wishes are to live here, but I’m not so sure how long that might be,” Colling said.

Colling described Thorberg as a bit of a curmudgeon and not always easy to work around. But Thorberg said he’s extremely appreciative of what’s being done for him.

“It’s heaven,” is how Thorberg described the work done on his house. “There’s still a few things to be done, but we’ll take care of that. There have been a lot of people around helping, but not like Rick. He made this all possible.”

The toughest part of the whole process has been all the moving around he’s had to do, Thorberg said.

“First it was upstairs, then downstairs. Then I had to go to the hospital, and now I’m over at the Lewis and Clark,” Thorberg said. “My health is still a problem, but we’ll get that resolved. I was one sick turkey, and I don’t have my strength yet. It’s going to take time to recover.”

Though the construction work is almost done, Colling and some of the other volunteers won’t just be walking away. Colling said he and a few of the others have become fast friends with Thorberg and intend on keeping in touch and checking up on Bob, likely on a weekly basis.

Colling never served in the military, but said he understands the sacrifices the veterans and their families have made. This project is Colling’s way of trying to repay those veterans for the freedom they’ve protected.

The North Dakota Patriot Guard – 

Heroes helping and   honoring Heroes.

Thank you Rick, Teri, and all those others working on this project.  The Patriot Guard Rides again!!!

Oldtimer