Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our Homeless Veterans: The Human Face

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates nine thousand veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are homeless. Others say it's more. To me, nine thousand is too many, by about nine thousand.

The other thing is, contrary to narrative, it doesn't have to happen all at once. There's slippage: a military man is trained to react to a crisis. When he or she comes home and it's totally different, they may cope for awhile in crisis mode. Then one thing happens, or another. The mask cracks. They end up on the street.

It's easy to say something needs to happen. There's a feel-good level to that. But then there's the part where people back from war actually have issues: broken families, the community safety net broken since they left. Others have hypervigilance, drug abuse, alcoholism. Still others: organic brain damage, or constant pain. Those things aren't pretty. Neither is war. We know who endured the most. Still endures the most.

Of the homeless population, it's estimated that 47% of them are Vietnam veterans. We failed these vets: it was partly our popular culture at the time, which I have never understood but must accept. It was also a failure on the part of  military culture, the VA culture. The lack of advance in psychology over PTSD. The enduring contribution of the Vietnam Veteran Homeless may well be that the current returning veterans are getting treatment sooner.

Good word is coming out from Eric Shinseki's work with the VA. But as I have said before, the VA doesn't work for everyone. Or it isn't the only thing a person needs.  Hey: hire a vet. Or if you're not in a hiring position, maybe just talk to one sometime. Every hello and how are you is part of their return to us. It may lead to something deeper or better. Try to know what you can in the way you can do it.

There's a few interesting stories out there. This one is from ABC News.


At Vets Edge dot Org: A true story of a veteran who nearly failed twice, written by himself.
From the Beloit Daily News: about two-thirds of the way down, the veterans' accounts start in this story.

6 comments:

Bob G. said...

Ann:
One thing this nation doesnt comprehend all that well, is that these men (and now women) are TRAINED for a specific function.
They are shaped, molded, honed, and sharpened into the "point of the spear", as it were...
And you don't do THAT overnight...

ON the other hand, when they're tour of duty ends, and they return stateside, you just can't "turn it all off" either.

Troopers are not light switches to be flicked on or off.
Beneath the uniform, the camo, the grime, and the sweat lies a REAL HUMAN BEING...always has, always will.

ANd a better re-acclimation system...something that can (and I don't like using this word) DE-PROGRAM them from the "fog of war" should have already been in place.
It's never easy to live "on the edge" after the gunfire has died down...
They were first to fight, and should be first to be hired...or cared for (is needed) whe they return to us.
This nation owes that much to these warriors.
And yes, this nation CAN do better.

Very good video and post.

Stay safe out there.

Bob G. said...

Ann:
One thing this nation doesnt comprehend all that well, is that these men (and now women) are TRAINED for a specific function.
They are shaped, molded, honed, and sharpened into the "point of the spear", as it were...
And you don't do THAT overnight...

ON the other hand, when they're tour of duty ends, and they return stateside, you just can't "turn it all off" either.

Troopers are not light switches to be flicked on or off.
Beneath the uniform, the camo, the grime, and the sweat lies a REAL HUMAN BEING...always has, always will.

ANd a better re-acclimation system...something that can (and I don't like using this word) DE-PROGRAM them from the "fog of war" should have already been in place.
It's never easy to live "on the edge" after the gunfire has died down...
They were first to fight, and should be first to be hired...or cared for (is needed) whe they return to us.
This nation owes that much to these warriors.
And yes, this nation CAN do better.

Very good video and post.

Stay safe out there.

suz said...

Sadly, it's all about the money. War is profitable, taking care of veterans is not. After we taxpayers have forked over the dough to pay for the war, we don't have much left for the "leftover" humans.

Lt @ squadcartheology said...

It's my belief that veterans of war should be treated as gold upon their return. VA hosptials should put privatized hospitals to shame. Benefits for veterans suffering from physical or psychological wounds should receive the treatment a Senator or Congressman would recieve should they require medical care. And they should be gauranteed housing. Period. It's upon their backs we live in luxury. It should be upon ours they return to civilian life. What should we do about it? Make sure our lawmakers know how we feel, and how we vote.

Momma Fargo said...

We have several here. Even though they qualify for assistance, some have chosen not to accept and others are heavily medicated with booze where the shelters won't take them. It's very sad. I don't like to see those that served our country fall through the cracks.

the observer said...

Ann T:
This is such a issue, thanks for your post.

Good comments too.

The help needs to be made more available, and more need to take it. Many value their percieved "freedom" more than the possibilities offered by health and decline real help until in extremis.
Thoughtfully, the Observer