Veterans Day 2007-Surge of Iraq & Afghanistan War Vets Join Ranks of the Homeless

I never served, and as State Rep. Chuck DeVore will tell you, I don’t get military ethos.  But this story from the NY Times is serving to make me angry, sad and sick to my stomach all at once.  The picture below is from a shelter for homeless vets in San Diego.

From the story:

****Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans’ accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did.

“We’re beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters,” said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counseling center. “But we anticipate that it’s going to be a tsunami.”

With more women serving in combat zones, the current wars are already resulting in a higher share of homeless women as well. They have an added risk factor: roughly 40 percent of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of recent wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers while in the military, officials said.

“Sexual abuse is a risk factor for homelessness,” Pete Dougherty, the V.A.’s director of homeless programs, said.

Special traits of the current wars may contribute to homelessness, including high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injury, which can cause unstable behavior and substance abuse, and the long and repeated tours of duty, which can make the reintegration into families and work all the harder.*****

So where is the compassionate conservative movement when it comes to supporting our troops after they leave the battlefield?



  1. Unjust as it is, it is also true that vets have long gotten the shaft from the US government. The GI Bill for WWII vets was something of an anomaly. It took many vets of the Revolutionary War decades to get any of the pension money they were legally due–this from the very government they had forcibly created in the war. BTW, MFSO and Iraq and Afghanistan vets were barred from the Long Beach Vets Day Parade. I posted a public email from them.

  2. And yet, contrary to popular opinion, veterans have a far lower homeless rate than the average population. We also have lower rates for a number of other indices of social ills, such as unemployment. Our suicide rate is also below national averages. So, pardon me if I am a bit skeptical of the New York Times and their often fictional reporting via anecdotes.

    Happy Veterans Day.

    Chuck DeVore
    State Assemblyman, 70th District
    Lieutenant Colonel ARNG (Ret.)

  3. BTW, not every homeless person who claims to be a vet is a vet. And, the surveys that say otherwise do not check status — they simply ask vet status but do not follow up.

    By the same measure our nation has several times the number of Vietnam vets as we actually have because so many men feel the need to falsely claim they were in Vietnam.

  4. Chuck —
    This from the National Institute on Mental Health:

    Science Update
    June 12, 2007

    Male Veterans Have Double the Suicide Rate of Civilians
    New study reflects much larger percentage of veterans than previous studies
    Male veterans in the general U.S. population are twice as likely as their civilian peers to die by suicide, a large study shows. Results of the research by Mark S. Kaplan, DrPH, and colleagues from Portland State University and Oregon Health & Science University were published online June 11 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and will appear in the July issue.

    To date, most studies on suicide among veterans have relied on data from those getting health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system. However, 75 percent of veterans do not get their health care through the VA. This study included 320,890 men age 18 and older in the general population, 104,026 of them veterans, whom researchers followed for 12 years.

    from CNN:
    WASHINGTON (CNN) — More than 25 percent of the homeless population in the United States are military veterans, although they represent 11 percent of the civilian adult population, according to a new report. On any given night last year, nearly 196,000 veterans slept on the street, in a shelter or in transitional housing, the study by the Homelessness Research Institute found.

    “Veterans make up a disproportionate share of homeless people,” the report said. “This is true despite the fact that veterans are better educated, more likely to be employed and have a lower poverty rate than the general population.”

    from USAToday: The unemployment rate among young veterans fell significantly last year, the first major decline since the war in Iraq began, U.S. Department of Labor statistics show. Joblessness among veterans ages 20-24 dipped to 10.4% last year after reaching a record high of almost 16% in 2005. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 269,000 veterans were in this age group in the 2006 labor force; about 28,000 were unemployed, says Jim Walker, an economist with the bureau.

    A University of Chicago study released Thursday suggests that the high unemployment during the war may have occurred because young veterans are taking their time — up to nine months in some cases — searching for the right job.

    “The study does suggest that young veterans take some time,” says Charles Ciccolella, assistant secretary for veterans’ employment and training at the Department of Labor. “It may also suggest that they use their unemployment compensation while looking for the right job.”

    The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago is tracking 173 unemployed veterans ages 20-24. Julia Lane, an economist and senior vice president of the center, said further study is underway to see whether the unemployment rate is falling largely among deactivated National Guard and Reserve troops trying to re-enter the workforce.

  5. not every homeless person who claims to be a vet is a vet

    Hey, Chuck, why not take it a step further like Campbell did and just say that veterans commit fraud?

  6. Ah, but in the study you cite by the Homelessness Research Institute you’ll find they did no checking at all. They just took people’s word for it that they were veterans.

    This is why my bill in 2005 which made it a crime to fraudulently claim to be a veteran for financial gain was amended by Democrats to exclude face-to-face solicitations for $20 or less. The Democrats wanted to protect panhandlers who claim to be veterans to enhance their take from soft touches. The bill became law with the amendment excluding enforcement for panhandlers.

    The suicide study is interesting. But, it is countered by the fact that, at least while actively serving, veterans have a LOWER suicide rate than the general population. Perhaps there are other factors at work here.

    All the best,

    Chuck DeVore
    State Assemblyman, 70th District

  7. An update for Rep. DeVore on veterna suicide rates; from a report by CBS News.

    It found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 than non-vets. (Veterans committed suicide at the rate of between 18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000, compared to other Americans, who did so at the rate of 8.9 per 100,000.)

    “One age group stood out. Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.) “

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