Study: 1 out of 4 homeless are veterans By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer Thu Nov 8, 7:09 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.
And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.
The Veterans Affairs Department has identified 1,500 homeless veterans from the current wars and says 400 of them have participated in its programs specifically targeting homelessness.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a public education nonprofit, based the findings of its report on numbers from Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. 2005 data estimated that 194,254 homeless people out of 744,313 on any given night were veterans.
In comparison, the VA says that 20 years ago, the estimated number of veterans who were homeless on any given night was 250,000.
Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.
"We're going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous," said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.
While services to homeless veterans have improved in the past 20 years, advocates say more financial resources still are needed. With the spotlight on the plight of Iraq veterans, they hope more will be done to prevent homelessness and provide affordable housing to the younger veterans while there's a window of opportunity.
"When the Vietnam War ended, that was part of the problem. The war was over, it was off TV, nobody wanted to hear about it," said John Keaveney, a Vietnam veteran and a founder of New Directions in Los Angeles, which provides substance abuse help, job training and shelter to veterans.
"I think they'll be forgotten," Keaveney said of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. "People get tired of it. It's not glitzy that these are young, honorable, patriotic Americans. They'll just be veterans, and that happens after every war."
Keaveney said it's difficult for his group to persuade some homeless Iraq veterans to stay for treatment and help because they don't relate to the older veterans. Those who stayed have had success one is now a stock broker and another is applying to be a police officer, he said.
"They see guys that are their father's age and they don't understand, they don't know, that in a couple of years they'll be looking like them," he said.
After being discharged from the military, Jason Kelley, 23, of Tomahawk, Wis., who served in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard, took a bus to Los Angeles looking for better job prospects and a new life.
Kelley said he couldn't find a job because he didn't have an apartment, and he couldn't get an apartment because he didn't have a job. He stayed in a $300-a-week motel until his money ran out, then moved into a shelter run by the group U.S. VETS in Inglewood, Calif. He's since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.
"The only training I have is infantry training and there's not really a need for that in the civilian world," Kelley said in a phone interview. He has enrolled in college and hopes to move out of the shelter soon.
The Iraq vets seeking help with homelessness are more likely to be women, less likely to have substance abuse problems, but more likely to have mental illness mostly related to post-traumatic stress, said Pete Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at the VA.
Overall, 45 percent of participants in the VA's homeless programs have a diagnosable mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem, while 35 percent have both, Dougherty said.
Historically, a number of fighters in U.S. wars have become homeless. In the post-Civil War era, homeless veterans sang old Army songs to dramatize their need for work and became known as "tramps," which had meant to march into war, said Todd DePastino, a historian at Penn State University's Beaver campus who wrote a book on the history of homelessness.
After World War I, thousands of veterans many of them homeless camped in the nation's capital seeking bonus money. Their camps were destroyed by the government, creating a public relations disaster for President Herbert Hoover.
The end of the Vietnam War coincided with a time of economic restructuring, and many of the same people who fought in Vietnam were also those most affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, DePastino said.
Their entrance to the streets was traumatic and, as they aged, their problems became more chronic, recalled Sister Mary Scullion, who has worked with the homeless for 30 years and co-founded of the group Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia.
"It takes more to address the needs because they are multiple needs that have been unattended," Scullion said. "Life on the street is brutal and I know many, many homeless veterans who have died from Vietnam."
The VA started targeting homelessness in 1987, 12 years after the fall of Saigon. Today, the VA has, either on its own or through partnerships, more than 15,000 residential rehabilitative, transitional and permanent beds for homeless veterans nationwide. It spends about $265 million annually on homeless-specific programs and about $1.5 billion for all health care costs for homeless veterans.
Because of these types of programs and because two years of free medical care is being offered to all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Dougherty said they hope many veterans from recent wars who are in need can be identified early.
"Clearly, I don't think that's going to totally solve the problem, but I also don't think we're simply going to wait for 10 years until they show up," Dougherty said. "We're out there now trying to get everybody we can to get those kinds of services today, so we avoid this kind of problem in the future."
In all of 2006, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 495,400 veterans were homeless at some point during the year.
The group recommends that 5,000 housing units be created per year for the next five years dedicated to the chronically homeless that would provide permanent housing linked to veterans' support systems. It also recommends funding an additional 20,000 housing vouchers exclusively for homeless veterans, and creating a program that helps bridge the gap between income and rent.
Following those recommendations would cost billions of dollars, but there is some movement in Congress to increase the amount of money dedicated to homeless veterans programs.
On a recent day in Philadelphia, case managers from Project H.O.M.E. and the VA picked up William Joyce, 60, a homeless Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair who said he'd been sleeping at a bus terminal.
"You're an honorable veteran. You're going to get some services," outreach worker Mark Salvatore told Joyce. "You need to be connected. You don't need to be out here on the streets."
Posts: 3875 | From: ca. | Registered: Jul 2005
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Or even if they never got there or never saw a battle field. They served. It was not their option to decide how or where.
(But, I do not include "serving" in the Guard or "Reserves", by choice, as a method of dodging the draft....I personally have more respect for those that went to Canada in protest).
Posts: 11304 | From: Fort Worth, Texas | Registered: Mar 2005
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To me that 194,000 homeless veterans number is stagggering. If you consider that the average age of Vietnam Veterans is in their late 50's. You know that so many of the Vietnam Vets that have been on the streets for very long have already died because of their upward age and the hard life style of living on the streets. It makes you wonder how many total Vets have been on the streets since the mid 70's?
Some tend to forget and sometimes rationalize why these homeless are on the streets. I think some seem to feel they deserve this livestyle for all kinds of reasons.
There are so many areas in all states (blighted areas,etc) that could be cleaned up to house the homeless if only our government would set more money aside for this, instead of for war.
Posts: 3875 | From: ca. | Registered: Jul 2005
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Reservists Having Issues Getting Jobs Back Pentagon Survey Finds Discontent Among Returning Troops
POSTED: 5:18 am PST November 8, 2007 UPDATED: 8:14 am PST November 8, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Strained by extended tours in Iraq, growing numbers of military reservists say the government is providing little help to soldiers who are denied their old jobs when they return home, Defense Department data shows.
The Pentagon survey of reservists in 2005-2006, obtained by The Associated Press, details increasing discontent among returning troops in protecting their legal rights after taking leave from work to fight for their country.
It found that 44 percent of the reservists polled said they were dissatisfied with how the Labor Department handled their complaint of employment discrimination based on their military status, up from 27 percent from 2004.
Nearly one-third, or 29 percent, said they had difficulty getting the information they needed from government agencies charged with protecting their rights, while 77 percent reported they didn't even bother trying to get assistance in part because they didn't think it would make a difference.
Legal experts say the findings might represent the tip of the iceberg. Formal complaints to the Labor Department by reservists hit nearly 1,600 in 2005 -- the highest number since 1991 -- not counting the thousands more cases reported each year to the Pentagon for resolution by mediation.
And a bump in complaints is likely once the Iraq war winds down and more people come home after an extended period in which employers were forced to restructure or hire new workers to cope with those on military leave, they said.
Among the survey's findings:
About 23 percent of reservists reported they did not return to their old jobs in part because their employer did not give them prompt re-employment or their job situation changed in some way while they were on military leave.
Twenty-nine percent of those choosing not to seek help to get their job back said it was because it was "not worth the fight." Another 23 percent said they were unsure of how to file a complaint. Others cited a lack of confidence that they could win (14 percent); fear of employer reprisal (13 percent), or other reasons (21 percent).
Reservists reported receiving an average of 1.8 briefings about their job rights and what government resources were available. This is down slightly from the 2.0 briefings they reported getting in 2004.
"Most of the government investigators are too willing to accept the employer's explanation for a worker's dismissal," said Sam Wright, a former Labor Department attorney who helped write the 1994 discrimination law protecting reservists.
"Some of it is indifference, some of them don't understand the laws involved," Wright said. "But the investigators establish for themselves this impossibly hard standard to win a case. As a result, reservists lose out."
Under the law, military personnel are protected from job discrimination based on their service and are generally entitled to a five-year cumulative leave with rights to their old jobs upon their return. Reservists typically file a complaint first with a Pentagon office, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), which seeks to resolve the dispute informally.
If that effort fails, a person typically can go to the Labor Department to pursue a formal complaint and possible litigation by the Justice Department.
A report by the American Bar Association as early as 2004 noted problems in which the government was "not seen as an aggressive advocate for the returning veteran." A presidential task force chaired by former Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson earlier this year found that agencies could do a better job of educating troops and veterans. The report did not address government enforcement of the law.
Just ask Ret. Marine Lt. Col. Steve Duarte, who won a court judgment of more than $430,000 from Agilent Technologies Inc. in March 2005 after turning to a private lawyer after losing his job. Duarte was a senior consultant when he was mobilized twice from October 2001 to April 2002 and from November 2002 to July 2003.
When Duarte returned from the second mobilization, Agilent did not reinstate his previous position but assigned him to a special project. He soon received a poor job evaluation that differed from previous positive reviews and was terminated four months later.
Duarte said he contacted the Pentagon and Labor Department, both of which turned him away. Labor Department lawyers allegedly said he didn't have a case unless he specifically heard his employer say they were terminating him for military reasons.
"I am not a lawyer, but I expected various government agencies like ESGR and the Department of Labor to help me," Duarte said in documents provided to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, which is reviewing the Labor Department's practices.
"I felt as though they were on the side of the large corporations," he said.
Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said: "We carefully consider information our members provide, and we actively work to develop solutions where needed." The Labor Department has said it has been working to better educate troops and veterans about their rights.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who chairs the Senate Health Committee, said he was troubled by the findings. He said he plans legislation to hold agencies accountable by requiring them to collect and release employment data.
The Labor Department currently releases an annual report on employment complaints to Congress, but the figures do not include Pentagon data. The report, which is due to Congress on Feb. 1, has yet to be released this year.
Posts: 3875 | From: ca. | Registered: Jul 2005
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