DESTROYED LIVES AND FAMILIES
By DoctorWho, Shakti, and PraetorOne
PART 3: HALF TRUTHS AND BROKEN PROMISES
Under normal circumstances it takes a number of a decades for a Veteran to go homeless, but in the case of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, the process by which past generations of veterans went homeless appears to be taking place at an accelerated rate. According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans nearly approximately 196,000 vets are homeless in any given night. And that may only be the beginning because as of 2006, 1.3 million American men and women had served at various times in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Sadly more than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are now utilizing agency supported residential programs across the entire United States. Shelters, soup kitchens, and parks are regularly visited by outreach officers from the Veterans Administration and the results are chilling to say the least. Approximately 1,500 Iraq-Afghanistan veterans were determined to be at risk even though some of them still had jobs. And the news only gets worse.
The increased number of women in the armed services has also complicated he picture. Approximately 40 percent of the hundreds of female veterans have been sexually assaulted by American soldiers while they were still in the military. That may sound irrelevant until you remember that sexual abuse can be a factor in determining homelessness.
And as stated in the previous installment, technological advances in medicine, warfare, and transportation have created a situation in which soldiers who might otherwise have died are now coming home with brain injuries, PTSD, and other forms of emotional and/or psychological disorders. That is of particular importance because government programs, including the Veterans Administration tend to treat mental disorders differently than they do physical disorders. Governmental programs tend to cater to those who have physical disabilities, but if you suffer from an emotional, psychological, or behavioral problem, you will be scrutinized more carefully, forced to jump through more hoops than someone with physical disabilities. And while you are waiting the nonphysical disabilities from which you suffer may well lead you from the horrific world of self medication (think drugs and alcohol) to the nightmare of genuine addiction, another factor in homelessness. In addition it often doesn't matter if an applicant has a physical or a psychological disability because red tape and governmental bureaucracy has created a situation in which applicants often wait for as long as a year for services. You don't need to be a social worker to realize that a veteran could easily go through his or her resources during that time and find him or herself on the steets.
Taken as a whole, veterans of all ages compose approximately 11 percent of the population, but they represent 26 percent of the homeless. Moreover 44,000 to 64,000 veterans (in general) have been diagnosed as chronic cases. And to make matters even worse, the United States Army has determined that one out of three Iraq War veterans will suffer the devastating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental disorders. Moreover experts expect this trend to continue for years, decades, to come; and if that sounds familiar it should. The same thing happened to Vietnam veterans. In other words, those organizations which provide housing, employment and counseling are not and may never be ready for the flash flood of human misery that is about to hit as a direct result of the Bush War.