Don't Say "Respect Veterans" Till You Do Too

Image/Seth Wenig

Image/Seth Wenig

This Memorial Day let’s remember and honor ALL veterans. This means the homeless, mentally ill, and disabled. It doesn’t matter if you support wars or not, veterans in need should be given care and everyone can agree on that. This men and women go unrecognized and get shunned by even the people that are the Armies biggest advocates or the USA’s number one fan. People will complain about how not every citizen appreciates our fighters enough, yet will ignore lower income or struggling vets.


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation’s homeless veterans are majority single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or other disorders. About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans.

Around 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively.

Homeless veterans are younger on average than the total veteran population. Approximately 9% are between the ages of 18 and 30, and 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50. But, only 5% of all veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30, and less than 23% are between 31 and 50.

About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Additionally, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. - VA

Mental health issues not only complicate homeless but also contributes to the problem in several ways. “They often result in the inability to acquire the skills, supports, and opportunities for economic advancement, for housing, or good family and social relationships,” says Gary Shaheen, director of employment policy at the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families. All of this, he says, “can shut down a person’s ability to cope and hope.”

This can lead to the possibility of suicide.

The VA’s 2012 report stated that 22 veterans die of suicide everyday. This is including active members serving.

Culhane says people with severe mental illness who do not have disabilities related to military service typically live on a fixed income of roughly $640 per month and can’t afford housing in the private market. Added to that, he says, a mental health crisis also may cause people to lose housing, perhaps by creating problems with landlords or family members, or as a result of extended hospitalizations that prevent them from making the rent.

Mental health issues not only contribute to homelessness but also may be consequences of it, says Keith Armstrong, LCSW, a clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and coauthor of Courage After Fire: Coping Strategies for Troops Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families. Some veterans, he notes, have no significant mental health issues until, and as a result of, becoming homeless. Sometimes, it is both.

So obviously as seen, this is unfair in multiple ways.

“Veterans need 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, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance.

NCHV strongly believes that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment.” - VA

If interested: here is an article with a recent example of struggling vets, and great statistics.

Lots of love to the organizations and groups working to help veterans in need.