One thing that I am extremely passionate about is my patriotism and my allegiance to the United States of America. I have spent a total of 16 years serving this once great nation with no questions asked (for the most part), with due diligence, and many, many sacrifices. Anywhere I was told to deploy, whatever the mission, I went. Over the course of my career, I saw foreign soil more than I saw my own family. Alas, no complaints from me. So why is it then that I feel the sense of some unsettled conflict raging inside of me?
Unfortunately, many American military members and veterans do not have access to the financial support and essential resources they need while on active duty or when they come home. It is the fact that our returning and long-returned veterans are not being treated with the respect and decency they so deserve. It does not matter whether they are from the WWII era, Vietnam, the Gulf or Iraq and Afghanistan era, these veterans should not have to deal with senseless degradation that so many of them are put through. Having to commit to such tasks as proving the fact that an illness or condition is directly related to service, has become ridiculous, especially when most healthcare professionals know for a fact that symptoms and conditions sometimes take years to present themselves as a problem.
From the lack of proper healthcare to the issues of homelessness, our war veterans should never half to face a hardship in life again as far as I am concerned. The war cry “Support Our Troops” has become synonymous with the war itself and not the warrior. Let us get back to focusing on the warrior’s needs. Let us be there for them as when they need us, as they were there for us when we often had no idea. The numbers are startling. The VA estimates that 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.
Approximately twice that many will experience homelessness in the course of a year’s time. While only eight percent of the general population is actually veterans nearly twenty percent of the homeless population is made up of veterans. Roughly 56 percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 28 percent of the U.S. population. Another 1.5 million other veterans may be at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly five percent being female. The majority of them are single; come from urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.
What is needed is a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally and most importantly, veterans need job skills assessment, training and placement assistance, while never losing focus of counseling and guidance. It has been estimated that we will have an additional 900,000 military graduating to the ranks of being veterans this year and eligible for veteran’s benefits.
Our nation’s veterans have already earned any and every benefit the VA and other veterans networks have to offer. American veterans and active-duty military sacrifice so much to keep us safe and guard our freedoms. They demand nothing in return. However, they do deserve something in return. Give the veterans the help they need and deserve, as they have once again solidified the freedom of this once great nation. Do not let their sacrifices be in vain.
Global Post – International News. “Record Number of US Veterans Are Seeking Disability Benefits” (Leasca, May 29, 2012 12:54)
http://www.nchv.org “FAQ about Homeless Veterans” (2012 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans)
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. (Jan 12, 2010). National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.va.gov
www.hudhre.info/documents/2009AHARVeteransReport “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplemental Report to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress”
www.infoplease.com/spot/veteranscensus1.html “American Veterans by the Numbers”