Tag Archives: VA

Marietta Georgia – No compassion for homeless – NONE

The City of Marietta is evicting homeless from within our city limits.  Al, our homeless veteran friend that our church is trying its best to help reports that he and his friends, which are mostly homeless veterans, have been given notice to move “south”, meaning out of Marietta and toward Atlanta.

We have been helping Al and some of his friends in numerous ways.  Pat (see an earlier story on Pat here and her husband Scott and a few others in our church have been serving breakfast Sunday Mornings and later bringing some to our church for bible study and services, often treating them to lunch afterward.  Scott put Al in a hotel during the cold snap and the group has been taking supplies and clothing to them. 

Al has been faithful in attending, and as a result has taken to the idea that he can get out of this.  He no longer looks homeless, is neat, trimmed and dressed in his best clothes.  However, despite the information, forms, trips to the VA, Al still has not received his papers or his VA card.  He is still homeless.  He has said he has now committed to getting off the streets but has no place to go.

Above is one of the homeless camps being evicted by the City of Marietta.  This is an old photo taken from the air, but it also the site of Als current camp.   Believe it or not, this was found by use of the Hit and Visitor Map to the right of this blog.  It has zoom and several modes, including hybrid (satellite and road labeling), airborne, and “bird’s eye”.  I used the hybrid mode in zoom to find the general area, then switched to bird’s eye and quickly found his camp and 2 other camps.   Try it in your area (bird’s eye is not available in all areas, mostly metropolitan areas around large cities like Atlanta).  Look for blue tarps in mostly wooded areas.  Let me know if you find any. 

Now comes the City of Marietta.  They have systematically attacked the homeless camps within their city and have now worked their way to Als camp.  They did give them a little prior notice.  They were told that they are trespassing (wooded right of way of city) have to be packed up and moved out by Monday.  

Guess What?  Its snowing in Georgia.  The ground is covered.  A few will accept winter shelter but the beds are full.   They are totally dependent on MUST ministries a few blocks from their camp for food which MUST serves once a day on weekdays.   Nothing on weekends.

Moving means a miles long treck instead of a block or so walk.   The plan is obvious, make the homeless either seek shelter or get out.  Unfortunatly there are not enough beds to go around.  Not nearly enough.  So the plan is equally obvious – get out of our city

The city should provide facilities for these homeless before making them move.  They don’t.  They depend on MUST Ministries and a few other shelters that they have forced into industrial zones and have for the most part squelched expansion of facilities.  

Our city has decided to take the cheaper route – run them out of our city before they cost us money!  It also has another up side for the city:  Next year the homeless count will show another “remarkable” drop and no one will have to cook the books by redefining the homeless or unfinding any.  

Al works when he can find a job.  He doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, has no noticeable mental problems.  He is a true walking hero with no place to go and our VA is not doing its duty.  Nor the VFW, nor our heartless City of Marietta.   He has fallen through the cracks and it makes me want to cry.

MUST Ministries, a block away from Al, serves Al a noon meal every week day. and  recently announced receiving grant money to set up transitional housing for veterans.   I’m sure they are hearing of the problem, but its been most of a week now since I left a message there for the program manager and sent a email inquiring about the program.  No response to the email and no returned call, and I know the guy, so he must be “out of pocket”.    MUST does do a wonderful job of helping feed and house the homeless and works tirelessly to serve them. 

Another mission, New Hope Missions reports that they are being swamped with homeless in the same desperate condition as Al.  New Hope serves about 125 breakfast and conducts services on Sunday and about half come from the area being evicted.  Some of them have to be out Wednesday.  Al has to be out Monday.

This is how not to minister to the homeless 

City of Marietta GA:  Shame!

Oldtimer

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Traumatic Brain Injury – TBI and Spinal Cord Injury SCI

The VA says this about TBI and SCI: 

Due to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) accounts for almost 25% of combat casualties.

Improvised explosive devices, blast (high pressure waves), landmines, and explosive fragments account for the majority of combat injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although Kevlar helmets and advances in body armor have saved the lives of many soldiers, they do not protect against blasts and impacts to the head, face and cervical spinal cord.

Blast injuries often result in multiple traumas, including injuries to internal organs, limb loss, sensory loss, and psychological disorders. The term “polytrauma” has been coined to describe the co-occurring injuries.

The information above and below come from here which are part of an introduction and overview prepared by Joel Kupersmith, MD, Chief Research and Development Officer, VA for the purposes of a proposal solicitation.  I thought the overview might be of interest to those with these injuries and their families.

Traumatic Brain Injury:

Kevlar helmets have done much to protect the head but leave the forehead unprotected. The left and right frontal lobes, located behind the forehead control intellectual abilities such as the ability to plan and organize. This area of the brain also controls personality, behavior, and emotional control.

Concussion or mild TBI is the most common form of combat-related injury. Mild TBI can occur even in those not directly hit by the blast, without obvious external injuries, without loss of consciousness and without visible findings from acute Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Problems with memory, lack of concentration, increased anxiety and irritability are common hallmarks of mild TBI. Although evidence suggests that the majority of OIF/OEF soldiers who suffer mild TBI will recover over time, early diagnoses and treatment are critical so that aberrant behaviors due to TBI are not misinterpreted and soldiers are spared the risk of second impact syndrome. Appropriate recognition of TBI will facilitate quick return to pre-injury activity levels, including return to duty status.

In addition to mild TBI, soldiers close to the blasts are experiencing severe diffuse and contrecoup injuries. Soldiers with a moderate to severe TBI often show the similar symptoms as mild TBI yet also report: worsening headaches; repeated vomiting or nausea; seizures; inability to awaken from sleep; slurred speech; weakness, numbness and loss of coordination. Unlike mild TBI, these problems and others can persist long-term or result in permanent difficulties with memory, reasoning, emotion and expression making it impossible to return to duty, hold steady employment or regain pre-injury quality of life.

Penetrating focal injuries from mortar rounds or other forms of heavy artillery resulting in severe brain injury are not as prevalent. However, focal destruction of brain tissue is the most life-threatening, intractable type of brain injury causing permanent damage to the affected area and the functions it controls.

Spinal Cord Injury:

Current designs in military protective gear and advanced evacuation procedures have resulted in both a decrease in the percentage of spinal cord injured soldiers and an increase in the number of those that ultimately survive. Blast force and shrapnel injuries are most common. For those that survive, the cervical spinal cord, the unprotected and most mobile portion of the spinal cord, is the most common site of injury.

Soldiers with cervical SCI face short- and long-term consequences of losing motor and sensory function below the level of injury, coupled with a loss of autonomic regulation. Every organ system may be affected by cervical spinal cord injury. Alterations in the gastrointestinal, renal, skin and musculoskeletal organs are common, and respiratory problems are the overwhelming cause of morbidity and mortality. In addition, patients may experience chronic pain at or below the level of injury and, less frequently, above it.

Alterations in respiratory mechanics, and the development of alveolar hypoventilation, pneumonia, aspiration of gastric contents, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary edema, and sleep apnea are a few of the common respiratory complications associated with cervical SCI. Ultimately, dysfunction depends on the level and extent of injury. Lesions above C3 paralyze all respiratory muscles. When SCI involves C3 to C5 lesions, profound respiratory muscle dysfunction occurs leaving the patient unable to generate a cough or clear secretions. Because of this, neuroprotective strategies that rescue even one or two segments may be of significant functional benefit to veterans with SCI.

Let’s pray that this proposal results in research that leads to significant help for our injured veterans.    

Oldtimer

VA Research Factsheet on PTSD

The following is a factsheet from the VA’s Research Advances Series titled Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),  published in September, 2007:

Soldier from VA BulletinSoldier from VA Bulletin VA’s Office of Research & Development supports a strong program of research directed to understanding, treating, and preventing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is an unrelenting biological reaction to the experience of a traumatic event. In the case of veterans, the trauma may occur from combat duty or other experiences where one’s safety or life is threatened. VA researchers have long been leaders in discovering new advances for treating and understanding PTSD.    The photo came with the article in 2007    I found a larger version here They title it “Prayer”.    I don’t know who the original photographer was.

Examples of VA research advances

Drug already used by millions may be effective in the treatment of PTSD – In an exciting new treatment development, VA researchers found that prazosin, an inexpensive generic drug already used by millions of Americans for high blood pressure and prostate problems, improved sleep and reduced trauma nightmares in a small number of veterans with PTSD.  Plans are under way for a large, multi-site trial to confirm the drug’s effectiveness.

Prolonged-exposure therapy effective in treatment of women veterans with PTSD– VA researchers found that prolonged-exposure therapy – in which therapists helped them recall their trauma memories under safe, controlled conditions-was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms in women veterans who have developed PTSD as the result of sexual trauma in the military, and that such reductions remained stable over time. Women who received prolonged-exposure therapy had greater reductions of PTSD symptoms than women who received only emotional support and counseling focused on current problems. This approach may be tested in, and applied to, other PTSD populations.

First ever clinical trial for the treatment of military service-related chronic PTSD– The largest study of its kind, involving 400 veterans from 20 VA medical centers nationwide, is being conducted to determine if risperidone, a medication already shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of PTSD, is also effective in veterans with chronic PTSD who continue to have symptoms despite receiving standard medications used for this disorder.

Facts About PTSD:

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can affect people who have experienced life-threatening events, such as combat, a terrorist attack, or a personal assault. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, depression, and social withdrawal, as well as physical health changes. Treatment often includes anti-anxiety drugs or other medication, as well as exposure therapy, a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy in which patients recall their traumas in a safe setting and gradually learn to adjust their emotional response. VA Research has long been leaders in making new advances for treating and understanding PTSD.

http://www.research.va.gov
Research & Development
Veterans Affairs

Oldtimer’s Comment: There are 17 of these factsheets.  Below is a linked list of them.    You may find something of interest in one or more of them.   For example, PTSD is mentioned in several.

Factsheets

  • Alzheimer’s Disease (193 KB, PDF)
  • Depression (192 KB, PDF)
  • Diabetes (168 KB, PDF)
  • Hearing Loss (194 KB, PDF)
  • Heart Disease and Stroke (223 KB, PDF)
  • Hepatitis C (198 KB, PDF)
  • HIV / AIDS (205 KB, PDF)
  • Iraq / Afghanistan (232 KB, )
  • Low Vision (248 KB, PDF)
  • Mental Health (191 KB, PDF)
  • Obesity (214 KB, PDF)
  • Osteoarthritis (175 KB, PDF)
  • Parkinson’s Disease (179 KB, PDF)
  • Personalized Medicine (208 KB, PDF)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (189 KB, PDF)
  • Prosthetics / Amputations (209 KB, PDF)
  • Spinal Cord Injury (205 KB, PDF)
  • Substance Abuse (175 KB, PDF)
  • Womens’ Health (201 KB, PDF)
  • Oldtimer

    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

    PTSD Payments Vary State to State

    PTSD Payments Vary State to State

    I’m indebted to the blog at Healing Combat Trauma for alerting me to this information in which they refererence an article published in Military.com with the above title.   You should read the information at Healing Combat Trauma as it is told better there than I can do it.   Below is a summary of information.

    It seems that the McClatchy Newspapers chain did extensive research through the freedom of information act and discovered that there is wide variation in the way disability ratings are given depending on where the veteran lives.   A veteran returning from Iraq that lives in Ohio or Montana for example, is typically given a much lower disability rating on average than one that returns to New Mexico.

    The study involved some 3 million disability claims records.  Consider these quotes from the Military.com article:

    “The VA workers who decide PTSD cases determine whether a veteran’s ability to function at work is limited a little, a lot or somewhere in between. They examine the frequency of panic attacks and the level of memory loss. The process is subjective, and veterans are placed on a scale that gives them scores – or “ratings” – of zero, 10, 30, 50, 70 or 100.

    “McClatchy’s analysis found that some regional offices are far more likely to give veterans scores of 50 or 70 while others are far more likely to stick with scores of 10 or 30.

    “Consider the New Mexico and Montana offices, where there are big differences up and down the scale.

    “In Montana, more than three-quarters of veterans have ratings of zero, 10 or 30. In New Mexico, a majority of the veterans have ratings of 50 or 70.

    “On top of that, 6 percent of New Mexico veterans had the highest rating possible – 100, worth $2,527 a month – compared with just 1 percent of Montana veterans.”

    The initial ratings pretty much stick with a veteran for the rest of their life, and the disparity in how the disability is rated may make a difference of hundreds of thousands over the remaining lifetime of the veteran.   Apparently some offices make a point of being generous in their ratings and some apparently are downright stingy, not giving a proper rating. 

    “Of recent vets processed in Roanoke, Va., 27 percent have high ratings for post-traumatic stress disorder. In Albuquerque, N.M., the number is 56 percent.”

    You need to read the Healing Combat Trauma article for some excellent commentary and also the military.com article for some extra details.   The research suggests that something is wrong with the VA’s rating system when one city rates twice as many of their veterans higher than in another city.   The VA does not treat our heroes fairly if they happen to live in the wrong part of our great country.

    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