Bad Economy, Decreased Services Force More Vets into Homelessness

Between reports of increasingly overloaded mental health services for PTSD and brain injuries through the VA, and the economic downturn making it difficult to find a decent job?

Communities across the country are planning for increases in homeless veterans populations.

Bracing for the return of thousands of soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the midst of a deep recession, city officials have taken some unprecedented steps to prevent a next wave of veterans from also sleeping on its streets….

The moves are being watched closely in Washington as a possible model for other communities hoping to avoid a homeless debacle like the one that followed Vietnam…

That planning is occurring is a step forward from past years and wars. But concerns about homelessness (PDF) are rising across the nation with losses of homes and livelihoods in the economic downturn. Veterans are 1 in 4 of the homeless nationwide. And signs point to even more increases in need as we go forward.

To meet the needs — and intervene rather than look the other way — communities are stepping up:

The VA Medical Center in Martinsburg is trying to alleviate some of that needs of area veterans in the first ever “Herohaven Homeless Veterans Stand Down.”

Veterans could receive various services such as a health screening, including flu shots and physical exams, and mental health screening for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Preston Brown, a veteran said, “Oh this is a blessing because I haven’t seen a dentist in awhile, so I got my teeth.”

Vets took home clean clothes, coats, sleeping bags, and shoes. Some of them walked out after meeting with organizations that will help them find a place to live and a job.

About 75 veterans took advantage of these services. Many of them were bused in from cities like Hagerstown, Chambersburg, and even as far as Winchester, VA and Cumberland, MD.

Identification is key in a nation where care is a patchwork at best, and nonexistent for far too many. Community partnerships with the VA are helping. But for how many will help come too late?

How many of those will be as a result of destroyed or misplaced VA records, preventing vets from seeking the very services to which they are entitled?

(YouTube — West Wing’s poignant In Excelsis Deo episode.)

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