Thursday, November 8, 2007

Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans

Please read the full article in the NYTimes.

More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.

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.

That last sentence relates to Fixer's post about how are GIs supposed to 'blow off steam' without booze and whores. I'm guessing they get the booze first, either by making it themselves or from Halliburton, and in the absence of hookers go after and commit crimes against female GIs, which crimes are largely covered up. Disgusting on both counts. Back to the main plot line...

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.

On the street for a year, he finally checked in at a V.A. clinic in Maryland and has struggled with PTSD, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse. The V.A. has provided temporary housing as he starts a new job.

I stayed at a VA Domiciliary for four and a half months while I was getting some bad habits removed. I had the ability to pay, so it cost me $5 a day, payable after my stay. It's free to the indigent until they get clean and sober and get a job. By that I mean staying sober. Alcohol on your breath will have you on the street outside the facility, or in a civilian jail if you're deemed too drunk to care for yourself, in ten minutes, and you can come back and get your gear in three days' time. I saw this happen to guys who backslid off the program, or 'went out' as they say. Relapse is part of recovery, but not at the VA and I understand why. They can be readmitted at a later time.

The Domiciliary program is wonderful, but space is limited at the various facilities around the country that offer it. There are WWII Vets who need assisted living all the way to modern-day vets who are there to rehab themselves, to out-of-area Vets needing on-site residency while they're undergoing medical treatment. It's comprehensive - three good slops and a clean, comfortable flop, two men to a room where I was, recreation, counseling, virtually everything you need to live pretty good. I liked it there. If they'da let me have a dog, I'd be there yet. Just kiddin', Honey!

Due to the advanced age of WWII, Korean War, and lately Vietnam Vets, the VA is damn good at geriatrics. There was a nursing home adjacent to the Dom where I was, and it was full all the time. Vacancies occurred both from the folks getting well enough to go go home or from 'home-going' as the brothers call it. They had the decency to wheel the deceased out late at night. There were funerals several times a week at the post chapel with accompanying gunfire, which made some old combat vets hit the deck.

Just as an example, there was an old gent there whose favorite war story was about the time he damn near stepped off the front of USS New Orleans in the dark and the smoke after she got her bow blown off by Japanese naval gunfire off Guadalcanal. He was eighty years old, a snappy dresser in the Arizona style, and would go on any outing just to go for a ride. Nice old coot. He was at the Dom because his family had swindled him out of any money he might have had, and, oh yeah, because he had Alzheimer's and they couldn't be bothered. We used to see him occasionally wandering around not knowing where he was. We would gently steer him back to his room and he would be OK the next day and not remember a thing.

There was another fellow who had been on the Bataan Death March and spent WWII as a prisoner of war. He was very quiet, and spent his time looking in the potted plants for God knows what. He was a little 'out there', but a good guy. Rumor had it that he had a MOH, but I've not been able to verify it.

My Dom roommate, now my friend for life, was a Marine Vietnam Vet and later a firefighter, who got in some trouble, did some prison time, lost his wife and everything else, and ended up with a low-paying casino food-service job and a meth habit to the point where, job notwithstanding, he slept (when he slept) under the stars on the banks of the Colorado River. He's now a custodian at the same VA facility, a good-paying job and one not uncommon amongst former patients 'til they move onwards and upwards if they care to, lives off post, and is rebuilding his life.

Just as an aside, me'n my roomie used to go play Bingo a coupla nights a week at the post theater. That's a whole story by itself. The Vet we always sat with was a WWII Coastie who was staying temporarily at the nursing home. On Bingo nights, she told her friends that she had a date with two Marines!

The VA works, folks. They understand very well what they are doing and their 'customer' base whom they are doing it to for. The medical treatment is very good, if sometimes a little slow. A note here: if you have a Purple Heart (or a Medal Of Honor) you go to the head of the line.

The VA used to be only for Vets who had service-connected health problems. They damn near went out of business in the '90s. The WWII guys were starting to dwindle, so they opened it up to Vets without service-connected problems, and that's when I and probably millions of others were able to hook up with them for cheap medical care. That was also about the time the Korean War and Vietnam Vets started to get old enough to need care. The system got overwhelmed then, and it's getting overwhelmed again by Bush's Lie.

The VA knows what it's doing and cares deeply about Veterans. It needs to build and expand. It didn't anticipate what's happening now. We can say it should have, and indeed it should have, but it fell for the same Bush & Cheney bullshit a whole lotta the rest of us did. Now it's playing catch-up. With one little problem slowing down what should be a full court press expansion project.

The problem is George W. Bush. He'll fight his endless goddam criminal war with trillions in borrowed money that future generations can pay back to the Chinese, but when it comes to things that actually help people, like children or Veterans, well, he's gotta cut spending and fuck them. I could go on and on about that mean-spirited, petulant little prick, but I'd be repeating myself.

One more year. If it is the will of Allah. Then things can start to straighten out. It's going to be an awful long process. Bush has done a lot of damage to every segment of America and will do so until he's shown the door, which I hope is on a prison cell. In Webuttfukyugudistan.

I kinda went off on a tear here. Please go read the article and this related one. It's shameful.

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