AT THE LIGHTHOUSE FOR RECOVERY MINISTRIES, PROUDLY
Since the beginning of our nation, our Veterans have stood up for
the men, women and children of our country, protecting us from
personally experiencing the horrors of war and evil, becoming a shield
soaking up the worst so that we may live our best.
a result, if they come home at all, they most often carry with them
scars and wounds, instabilities and a tough time adjusting to civilian
life, even with their families and loved ones.
As a former veteran with U.S. Army Special Operations Command, I am
proud of each and every one of our men and women who serve in our Armed
Forces, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week and put their lives on the
line for every man, woman and child in this country. They volunteered to give up their lives in order to provide you and your loved ones the freedom to live and work in our great nation.
For these honorable men and women, how do their fellow countrymen treat our returning heroes for their sacrifices?
"For their service and sacrifice, warm words of thanks from a grateful nation
are more than warranted, but they aren't nearly enough. We also owe our veterans
the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned. We have a
sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America.
It's a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end. But we know
that for too long, we've fallen short of meeting that commitment. Too many
wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don't
receive the support that they've earned. Too many who once wore our nation's
uniform now sleep in our nation's streets."
-President Barack Obama, March 19, 2009
Some of the main issues facing today’s Veterans: Veteran unemployment is nearly twice the national average.
Young Veterans who joined the military after high school and went off
to war are at a disadvantage when competing for civilian jobs with peers
who didn’t serve. Vets often don’t have easily translatable civilian
skills, nor do they have the network of civilian business and social
contacts that other young people have. Unless they apply with companies
who place a priority on hiring Veterans, they are in a tough spot
competing with other job seekers.
One out of every three Veterans suffers
from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or a combination of the two due
to combat trauma.
Upon returning home, our troops are not
receiving proper medical and psychological evaluation or counseling.
It’s up to them to seek the help they need and often this help is not
easy to find or to access.
There is a backlog of 1.2 million claims at the Veterans Administration.
The VA application process remains complicated and adversarial.
Veterans are not automatically enrolled in the VA, as many people think,
when they finish their military service. They need help finding VA
facilities, completing complicated applications, managing the
application process and appealing rejected claims. Many Veterans who are
disabled and unable to work due to war trauma are waiting months and
years for benefits they were promised and have earned. This results in
many Vets with significant financial problems that can end up homeless
A third of all homeless citizens in America are Veterans.
to many of the factors discussed here, Veterans with distinguished,
even heroic, military records are ending up living on the streets.
Because of untreated PTSD or TBI and self medication with drugs and
alcohol, many Veterans are finding themselves in conflict with the
criminal justice system. Special Veterans Courts are the appropriate
response to these problems. These courts take into consideration a Vet’s
military service and the war experiences and lack of readjustment
services that cause them to engage in anti-social behaviors. Veterans’
courts focus on treatment and rehabilitation rather than jail time.
Unfortunately, only a handful of these courts exist in the U.S. (www.care2.com).
TO REACH EVERY FEMALE OR WOMAN VETERAN
Even as the Pentagon lifts the ban on women in combat roles, returning servicewomen are facing a battlefield of a different kind: they are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, an often-invisible group bouncing between sofa and air mattress, overnighting in public storage lockers, living in cars and learning to park inconspicuously on the outskirts of shopping centers to avoid the violence of the streets.
While male returnees become homeless largely because of substance abuse and mental illness, experts say that female veterans face those problems and more, including the search for family housing and an even harder time finding well-paying jobs.
But a common pathway to homelessness for women, researchers and psychologists said, is military sexual trauma, or M.S.T., from assaults or harassment during their service, which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Of 898,000 veterans nationwide who spent at least one night in a shelter in 2013, nearly 30 percent were women, according to the latest figures available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, up from 7.5 percent in 2009.
In part it is a reflection of the changing nature of the American military, where women now constitute 17 percent of active-duty forces and 23 percent of the Army National Guard and the Reserves.
But female veterans also face a complex “web of vulnerability,” said Dr. Donna L. Washington, a professor of medicine at U.C.L.A. and a physician at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs medical center, who has studied the ways the women become homeless, including poverty and military sexual trauma.
Female veterans are far more likely to be single parents than men. Yet more than 70 percent of transitional housing programs receiving grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs did not accept children, or restricted their age and number, according to a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office.
The lack of jobs for female veterans also contributes to homelessness.
Have you recently returned from military service?
Here are just a few of the programs VA offers:
5 Years Cost Free Health Care
OEF/OIF/OND combat Veterans can receive cost free medical care for any condition related to their service in the Iraq/Afghanistan theater for five years after the date of their discharge or release. Enroll in VA health care. Don't delay, apply today!
180 Day Dental Benefit — OEF/OIF/OND combat Veterans may be eligible for one-time dental care — but you must apply with 180 days of your separation date from active duty. Learn more about this OEF/OIF/OND.
Find Family Support at Vet Centers — If you have served in ANY combat zone, local Vet Centers can help you and your family with readjustment counseling and outreach services — for free. Learn more about this OEF/OIF/OND benefit...
VA Services: Women Veterans
Women are the fastest growing group within the Veteran population.
VA's Women Veterans Health Care
addresses the health care needs of women Veterans and works to ensure that timely, equitable, high-quality, comprehensive health care services are provided in a sensitive and safe environment at VA health facilities nationwide.
Many Veterans face challenges throughout their lives that may lead them to lose their home, eventually becoming homeless. VA recognizes that every homeless Veteran's story is different, including their specific needs to help them get back into permanent and stable housing. There are many VA benefits that may support your specific needs, so it is important you know what benefits you may be eligible for.
VA Benefits for Homeless VeteransHealth Care
The VA Health Care Network provides care to Veterans across the nation at VA Medical Centers, Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, and Vet Centers. Many of these facilities offer health care programs for homeless Veterans, including mental health services.
There are many federal housing programs that can support homeless Veterans and their families. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and VA Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH) partner to provide permanent, supportive housing and treatment services for homeless Veterans. Learn more about HUD-VASH
VA has many employment and training programs that provide homeless Veterans and Veterans at-risk of homelessness the opportunity to return to healthy, productive lifestyles within their communities.
If you have a VA loan but are having trouble making your mortgage payments, it is very important that you take steps to avoid a foreclosure. VA may be able to help. Learn more about Foreclosure Assistance
How to Apply
Each VA Regional Office has a Homeless Veterans Outreach Coordinator who is a direct point of contact for you to learn more about what benefits you qualify for, assist you with applying for those benefits, and refer you to other organizations and resources that will help you get back on your feet.
To find your local Homeless Veterans Outreach Coordinator, please visit the nearest VA Regional Office
or call VA's National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).