Statistics show that a significant portion of the homeless population is composed of veterans. Homeless veterans include men and women as more women are joining the military now. I find it especially disheartening to know that those men and women who served our country are now living on the street.
If you ask what you can do to help end homelessness among veterans, here are a few tips:
- Collect personal items that the veteran can use, such as clothes, toiletries, or food items.
- Help the person find temporary housing in a shelter. Contact the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development at (202) 708-1112 to obtain a list of shelters in your area.
- Create a file of the person’s personal records, which will be necessary to get permanent housing, a job and other benefits. This file includes photo identification, birth certificate and a social security card. Obtain photo identification at your state’s motor vehicle office.
- Obtain a copy of the person’s military service and health records by sending a request to the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. You may fax the request to (314) 801-920.
- Contact the Veterans Administration at (800) 827-1000 to obtain a copy of the book known as “Federal Benefits for Veterans and Their Dependents.” If the person is eligible for a claim, identify a service representative, such as the American Legion or AMVETS to help file the claim.
- Encourage the person to obtain medical assistance through the local VA Medical Center. Find your local VA Medical Center through the Veterans Administration website or by calling (877) 222-8387. Obtain additional assistance through the National Health Care for the Homeless Council at (615) 226-2292.
- Assist the person in finding a job by calling the Department of Labor’s VETS Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program. Obtain the number for your local office at the Department of Labor’s website. For disabled veterans contact VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services at (877) 222-838.
- Establish an address where the person can receive mail. Options include a shelter, the local VA office, a church or a friend’s home.
- Other organizations provide assistance to homeless veterans, such as United Way, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army.
Military service has a lasting imprint on the minds, bodies, and families of United States veterans. Since 2001, over 1.6 million of our troops, active and reserve, were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Over a third of these troops served in these combat zones for more than one tour. Many veterans return home from their combat service abroad with a myriad of complex emotional issues:
• 40,000 veterans diagnosed with POST Traumatic Stress Disorder
• 300,000 veterans suffer from major depression
• 320,000 veterans have experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI)
• Army reports a 63% increase in divorces since 2001
• Record high suicide rate in 2009 (160)—increased 150% since 2001
• Substance abuse increased by 53% since 2003
• Domestic violence is on the rise
• At least 1 in 6 service-members are prescribed at least one psychiatric drug
• Defense Logistics Agency has spent $1.1 billion on common psychiatric and pain meds from 2001 – 2009 (76% increase)
• Anti-psychotic medications orders increased by 200%. Annual spending more than quadrupled from $4million to $16million
• Use of anti-anxiety drugs increased by 170%. Annual spending nearly tripled from $6million to $17million
• Anti-epileptic drugs (anticonvulsants) are the most common prescribed meds. Prescriptions increased by 70%. Spending up from $16million to $35 million
Service-members survive their war time service only to return home suffering its effects without the necessary tools for healing. Many suffer with symptoms of PTSD for decades. Yet, despite the effectiveness of alternative therapies, access to such services remains limited.
Some additional facts:
• 1 in 5 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed with PTSD.
• Veterans now account for 20% of all U.S. suicides.
There are times our tempers get out of control and we won’t do something for our own good because of our own stubbornness. I’ve seen several veterans that are eligible for benefits who give up because they were denied the first time they applied. They get angry and refuse to pursue it further. That’s sad. The person they were asking may not have been responding accurately. I’ve also seen times when the person they were asking simply refused to proceed with the request. Instead of providing good service, it turns into a power play.
I’m convinced that many government agencies deny benefits on a routine basis simply to see if the applicant has the moxie to follow through appealing the denial and will fight to get what he or she is entitled to. It’s easier to quit and put on your victim’s hat than take that next step and work at getting what’s owed you. It’s financially profitable for them if the veteran refuses to take the next step.
Sometimes we may need to do that; we’re too sick or tired to continue fighting. But, if we do it just because we are tired of dealing with the stupidity of others, then we’re just cutting off our noses to spite our faces. There is merit in the old saying, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Don’t take no for an answer until you’re sure the answer is the correct one. Get the benefits you’re entitled to; don’t let pride stand in your way!