US sees falling number of homeless veterans

Expanded federal aid programs mean fewer vets are on the streets. But a younger generation of those who served needs more help than ever -- and that costs money.

By Bruce Kennedy Dec 27, 2012 5:23PM

Image: Military Man (Stockbyte/SuperStock)It's been a national shame for decades: Some Americans who served in the military end up homeless, living in parks, under highways and in shelters. The recent economic downturn has only added to the number of veterans unable to find a proper home.

 

But there have been some signs of improvement. Under a program begun by President George W. Bush and expanded by the Obama administration, the overall number of homeless veterans has declined significantly.

 

A new report by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development says the number of homeless veterans fell by 7.2% in January from a year earlier -- and by 17.2% since 2009.

 

Officials say the decline is keeping the government on target to meet its current goal of ending veteran homelessness in 2015.


"While this is encouraging news, we have more work to do and will not be satisfied until no veteran has to sleep on the street," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said in a press statement.


The VA’s Homeless Veterans Initiative committed $800 million in fiscal 2011 to bulk up veteran service programs for job training, job placement and education, housing and health care. 


The initiative also works with HUD to provide homeless vets with vouchers for rental assistance, as well as VA community-based outreach clinics. The so-called HUD-VASH program has reportedly helped more than 42,000 veterans find permanent housing.


But veterans, like the rest of the population, are trying to cope with a difficult economic landscape -- where one financial setback can have disastrous consequences.


"Some people are right on the edge," Candice Cummings, social work executive and homeless coordinator for the VA facility in Sioux Falls, S.D., told the Argus Leader. "If a crisis happens, they don't have resources. About 40% have been homeless at least a year or four times in three years."


Cummings is also seeing a new generation of homeless veterans needing help. "It used to be we were looking at males, 45 to 55," she said. "Now we are looking at younger people. It used to be single people. Now it is families more and women. That's a different trend."


In fact, the number of homeless veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts has reportedly more than doubled over the past two years. 


"It's alarming," said Joe Leal, an Iraq War veteran and founder of the Vet Hunters Project -- a privately-funded group that works with homeless vets -- during an interview with NBC News.


"We house more Iraq and Afghanistan and younger veterans than older veterans. It used to be where a homeless vet was typically about 60 years old. Now, they’re 22 years old. And a lot of them are female veterans who have witnessed combat. They are coming back messed up. They are coming back homeless."


Younger veterans are more savvy and don't necessarily like to ask for help, Anne Murphy, with the Salvation Army in Los Angeles, told USA Today. "But there are a lot of them out there."


The VA is requesting an additional $333 million in funding in its 2013 budget request -- a 33% increase over the previous year's budget – for programs to prevent and further reduce veteran homelessness.


And helping homeless veterans become aware of these programs, grants and other services available to them can often be the first step towards finding them permanent homes.


"It’s amazing to me how many of these men and women have no clue to what they’re entitled," Dorothy Walsh, with National Veterans Homeless Support, recently told Florida Today.


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43Comments
Dec 27, 2012 8:52PM
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Ha! They probably failed to account for the number of homeless veterans who have passed away. Some of whom have passed away from depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc. because they never got the respect they deserved in the first place.

Dec 27, 2012 10:52PM
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I served 3 deployments to Iraq and came home mentally not well. I didn't get help and ended up without a home.

I was foreclosed on after falling behind 4 payments on a home I had been making payments on since 1992.

I have a home again but it's a far cry from what I lost. I'm not complaining about how things turned out, I am happy with where I am though not as nice as where I was. It's mine. I just wish they would have helped me get by a little until I got my brains back.


Dec 27, 2012 5:34PM
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Of course that is the case we haven't had a conflict that required an extremely large number of troops since Vietnam.  Of course in 35 years since conflict ended in 75 the homeless ones are either unreachable or dead.  Iraq and Afganistan didn't require the number of troops Vietnam did.
Dec 28, 2012 9:18AM
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A "Falling number" is not acceptable.  The number should be 0, period.  These veterans put their life on the line for us and we can't find a warm safe clean place for them?  I think each congressman should take in a few until they find it important enough to find a solution.
Dec 28, 2012 10:01AM
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I work for the VA as a combat veteran outreach rep.  And the comment in the article about "they have no clue to what they are entitled" is so true!  You wouldn't believe how many times I hear "but my first sergeant said I wasn't eligible to get any benefits because I wasn't awarded a Purple Heart"....

Our active duty leadership is under tremendous pressure to "cut costs" when it comes to what DOD has to pay out.  We have seen too many cases where a service member had documented injuries/problems for several years, and then all of a sudden, right before they get discharged, the military says "you are fine, you don't have any problems", and this is epidemic. DOD is trying to get out of having to go thru a medical discharge/medical retirement, which costs them money. So, it is easier for them to tell young troops "you don't have a problem" (and the troops want to believe them) than it is to be straight up and do the right thing.

We at the VA are cleaning up ALOT of DOD's messes.  It is frustrating...and is one reason that the VA started the combat veteran outreach program: so our returning combat vets WILL be informed of what services are available, what they are entitled to, and how to get them.  The VA started this program due to what happened with the Vietnam veterans...and the VA leadership said "never again".

If you are a veteran, or know a veteran, who is not currently or has never enrolled in VA programs or services, PLEASE have them do so!  It is free, usually takes 30-45 minutes at a local VA enrollment office or vet center (or any veterans service officer from any veterans organization can help do it; the American Legion, VFW, Disabled American Veterans, etc).  They only need their Social Security card and their member copy of their DD-214. If they don't have their DD-214, they can request one from the National Personnel Records Center.  But they HAVE to have both of those items to get enrolled.
Dec 28, 2012 10:13AM
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It's a National disgrace that we can't do more for these people who made sacrifices to serve this country.  Why can't we start a jobs works program to restore our infrastructure, requiring that these veterans be given top priority in hiring to work on our roads, bridges and port facilities, work that is sorely needed right now.  Yes it would cost some money (yet we just give away money to large wealthy farm corporations, Israel, etc.), aren't these veterans deserving of it, and it will help our country in the long run, i.e., at least we get a return for our investment, ever hear of priming the well.

 

I'm sure there are those that would oppose this, someone like MiracleGuy probably considers these homeless vets as deadbeats in his hated 47% who don't pay their pair share, and then there's "jim945" who posted "get a job", classy, real classy!

Dec 28, 2012 1:49AM
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Yes there are fewer homeless vet's! They are dying off now!
Dec 28, 2012 10:15AM
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 It sounds like Both Bush and Obama with increased services at least acknowledged there was a  problem. I think those that don't have family for support when they get out should be given more help getting back on track.
Dec 28, 2012 1:03PM
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To all my Brother and Sister Veterans, thank you for your service. I speak as a Vietnam Veteran 1966-1968 U.S. Marine. I didn't know I suffered with PTSD until 1999,  that's when I received help and was diagnosed with it. If it was not for a Health Fair in NYC's Grand Central Terminal I would still be walking around suffering. I met a Female VA representative that referred me to a
PTSD out reach program. It was easier to get in then, but the system is now making it harder. Between the waiting list and the changing of the title from PTSD to Adjustment Disorder. A word of caution beware of the later title because there is a reason for the change. Do your homework and research a lot of ones health service connected conditions can be found on the website from A-Z. www.va.gov.  click on  HEALTH FINDER  from the directory and put in what your looking for. Take a look at www.vqlan.org   ....Best to you in New Year 2013  Wes21
Dec 28, 2012 8:23AM
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In 2012; Soldiers suicides surpassed, combat deaths....Headline this A.M.

 

So if you know some of these guys/gals, help get them involved in VFW or American Legions...

And get them to the VAs or other care....Many have issues and need help.

Dec 28, 2012 9:40AM
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A segment of our non-taxpaying population that does not deserve the GOP's 47% label. Shame on the GOP for calling our vets non-contributors.
Dec 28, 2012 8:43AM
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The VA is much better than it has been in the past. I am finally getting treatment for service connected and a token 10% PTSD that I have been caring around for years. Not living a normal life at all or anything close to it. They have PTSD centers where you can go if you truly are suffering from it and if it is making you homeless they will speed up your claim and they will help. They have helped me. Now there is a four hour evaluation before you get into this program so if your not suffering from PTSD and just because you saw combat does not mean you suffer from it. If you don't have it then you will not receive help but if you do you will. It is as simple as that. I recently returned to the US after a long time out and did so because of the professionalism of people on the VA crises line. They know how to deal with things now as before they did not. ANY VET SUFFERING FROM HIS EXPERIENCES IN COMBAT SHOULD GET HELP IT IS EASY TO ADAPT AVOIDANCE TECHNIQUES TO DEAL WITH IT BUT TRUST ME YOU WILL EVENTUALLY HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT OR IT WILL DESTROY YOU. You can not do that on your own if you have things you can't remember or I believe were seriously wounded it makes a difference. 

Contact your VA, Contact the crises line get some help and move on with your life. It will not be easy to relive the ****, in fact it will be harder than living it in the first place but do it, I have no regrets. Anyone saying things are worse now than before have no idea what they are talking about. Is the system optimal? No it is full of problems. Can it work for you? Yes. Just get into the system dump the people who don't care and find people who do to help you. 

For PTSD go to the PTSD Center nearest you not the VA clinics for treatment they don't know what they are doing at the hospitals these new centers like the one at Ft Thomas, OH are truly life saving. 

http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

Dec 28, 2012 4:24AM
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At least we need to make sure this ends....our vets supported America, we need to help them every way we can..... Look, lets stop all foreign aid untill America is fixed....
Dec 28, 2012 4:25AM
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The Republican, Neo-Con. Libertarian and Tea Party Fascists plans to take over America will never succeed as long as all us vigilant, just and patriotic Democrats are there to STOP you.

 

It will NEVER happen under our watch!

 

youtube.com/watch?v=7BZCfbrXKs4

 

God bless Freedom, Prosperity and Justice for all in America!

 

P.S. DIE WALL STREET, DIE!

Dec 28, 2012 4:40PM
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The VA's definition of "HOUSING" for homeless veterans is an 8-hour floor mat in a prison-like Salvation Army shelter....
Dec 28, 2012 4:38PM
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99.99% of the homeless veterans DO NOT QUALIFY for the HUD-VASH Housing Vouchers....
Dec 28, 2012 1:34PM
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TO "LOSTONEARTH"

Another Nazi exposed.   That's OK --- the citizens are armed and the military will follow the Constitution and defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic (LostOnEarth)

Dec 28, 2012 8:58AM
Dec 28, 2012 8:12AM
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Don't know what to really say BFGILLIS.......But good luck and best wishes in the coming year...

 

In the 60s when I came home, I was lucky and had a job and family to return to.

It helped me keep going...Somedays, it ain't easy for others.

Dec 28, 2012 8:00AM
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VnVet......Not really sure why you are venting on Obama...Seems you have other problems ??

 

As far as I can tell the VA Hospitals are going full BLAST....And the care an expense laid out per Veteran, has increased substancially...

A few years back a Cabinet Post was added to the Government.

 

I'm sure there are some locations that are being overwhelmed....There are reasons:

Because of the RECESSION, and job losses or healthcare problems through employers; Many more Veterans are fleeing to the VA, for healthcare...All ages,all Wars, or all Services, many young ones coming back from MidEeast too.(seen a lot of that)

Many of the older Vets are getting many maladies because of old age...55-65 and up.

I believe a lot of the younger Vets are overwhelming the system, because they have been directed there, for just about anything and many do not have healthcare.

Many of WW2 Vets are now dead or in long term care...

Korean and Viet Nam Vets are heading that same direction.

But you don't have to be a Combat Vet to get care....Just a Vet.

If you know of Vets in need, I strongly recommend them contacting an American Legion, VFW or other Vets organization to help guide them through the system...They have Service officers or contacts....

I have been a sevice connected disabled combat vet since 1965....Started by getting 10% then.

I sought little more, until just recent years. Because other guy/gals needed it more..

It takes time to work through the System, because they are very busy..Not because of Obama.

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