Monday, February 26, 2007

Homeless vets a national disgrace

I'm glad to see the current focus on veteran's issues since the WaPo broke the Walter Reed story. Newsweek posts an article on another big problem that has been ignored, homeless veterans. This is not something limited to returning Iraq vets. This has been going on since at least Vietnam.

I've known many Nam vets who ended up homeless and strung out on booze and drugs. They came home and were abandoned by our government once they served their purpose as cannon fodder for politicians who love to wage wars. Most suffered from PTSD and many also came back physically disabled. I watched over the years as they steadily declined, lost in depression and their own dark memories that never faded. Most of them are dead now; mostly of heroin overdoses.

These kids go into the military thinking, based on the recruiter's promises, that the army will take care of them when they get out. Instead they're thrown to the bureaucratic wolves without the skill or the energy to negotiate the labyrith of regulations and outright trickery that robs them of their benefits. Those that entered service at 18 and 19 don't have the life experience or education to figure out how to dig themselves out of the hole, so they inevitably dig themselves in deeper.

The Iraq vets have it even worse because they come to a country that barely acknowledges the war that robbed them of their youth and their peace of mind, yet the VA has few services and long waiting lists for the treatments that are available. Few can outlast the bureaucratic tangle and simply disappear. No one tries to find them but they're not so difficult to track down. Go to any dive bar in any town and you'll find at least one sitting alone, nursing drink after drink in an effort to obscure their demons. They stay for hours until they stumble out finally numb enough to face the world that cheerily goes on around them, apparently oblivious to their plight. They have no place else to go.

No matter how you feel about the war, these guys served their country. It's criminal that their country now refuses to return the favor when they so clearly need help.
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10 Comments:

Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Florida has more than its share. If you're going to be spending nights passed out in the vacant lot next to the VFW, Key West is better than Keokuk.

Yes, it's criminal, but this government has a rap sheet so long you don't notice a small thing like a few tens of thousands of lives wasted or promises broken -- not through all the noise about supporting the troops and protecting their morale.

11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous rockync said...

Before you get too outraged, you need to read the book "Stolen Valor" which was written by a Viet Nam vet exposing the disgusting practice of cons masquarading as vets and claiming service they never performed. And we're not just talking homeless. There are politicians, actors, doctors, etc. Apparently the military doesn't have much in the way of controls so they routinely treat imposters. Granted, there are legitimate vets with legitimate problems who should be getting better treatment, but when you have so many posers using up system resources, the real vets can't get what they need.

12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Support The Vets said...

Rockync - i do think that maybe a few could slip through the system as imposters but i also know we have over 200,000+ homeless vets that have been shafted legitimately- and over 600,000 vets currently waiting for decisions about their disability claims....

Have you guys heard of the documentary called WHEN I CAME HOME? its all about homeless iraq war veterans in new york city- seriously eye-opening - theres a one minute trailer at:

www.whenicamehome.com

support the vets

1:22:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

I have a word for people who refuse to help the helpless and justify it by postulating that this guy will only use the money I give him to buy drugs, or that guy really isn't blind and the fellow with no legs lost them through his own fault.

I have another word for those who act like that and pretend to Christianity, but neither word is suitable to use here in polite company.

6:06:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Fogg - I'm with you on this. I can't say what I really think in polite company. I find it horrible and infuriating.

Rocky - that's part of the problem. Con men have the skills to game the system, but the people who deserve the help don't get it because the make the system too complicated for them to negotiate.

Thanks for the link Support the vets.

8:59:00 AM  
Anonymous rockync said...

Sorry Support but I believe there are more than a few abusing the system. For every one who is getting benefits they are not entitled to, there is a soldier out there who can't use those benefits and that is my point. Capt, I hope your comments aren't aimed at me. I am not advocating ignoring the homeless or indigent. I do what I can in my community and I hope others help out in theirs, but they can't be using veteran benfits they are not entitled to. If they can't get what they need without fraudulent means, then social services need to look at their programs on the local and state level to find out why their programs aren't working. Granted these programs are probably wholly inadequate in most places but there are usually volunteer groups trying to fill in the gaps. We have something here called Christian Ministries that help with medications, heat, food, etc. and include the working poor among their clientele. I have stopped donations to most all national organizations and concentrate efforts on supporting this and a couple of other local charities. The problem is there is a whole cottage industry built around "being homeless." Ever see those "homeless" people who stand on corners panhandling? The large majority are not homeless, they are con artists. I have been bombarded on a daily basis by these lazy bums while on my way to and from busting my ass at my job. So pardon me for being a bit jaded. The bad part is I'm surely not the only one and I wonder how many people no longer give to charity because of these posers.

10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

No, it's not personal and I have a problem with many charities and the way they solicit, but I would rather waste a buck then deny help - that's just my choice.

I do question how you know what percentages of those seeking help are real and how many are con men. I haven't read that book, but I know so many verifiable vets who have never got the help they needed - and deserved that I'm not going to wash my hands of them -- even though it's the government's responsibility.

We have a new crop of the maimed and traumatized now and if the government is shirking that responsibility -- and they are -- I can believe they are willing to shirk a somewhat older responsibility.

4:14:00 PM  
Anonymous rockync said...

Oh, Capt, I agree, we have a burgeoning number of wounded coming home (both physical and mental) that need our help, our voice and our support. While they are fighting there, we need to continue the fight for them here. I brought up the bogus veterans only because while they are fleecing "the system" real heroes, men and women, already suffering from an ineffective, ill staffed and wasteful VA system are being further insulted and mired down by those wasting precious resources they have no right to. We need to continue to hold this administration responsible for taking care of those who have gone to fight their war for them but they also need to be held accountable for the mess that is the VA and come up with a new plan to get our military persons the help they need now. Cleaning up building 18 at Walter Reed is a start, but they can't be allowed to pat each other on the back and think they are finished. These chronic problems have been ongoing since we became a country. After WWI they were shooting vets in DC for demanding what had been promised them. Each subsequent war has been more of the same. Most all those called to duty do so honorably, humanely and efficiently and they should expect no less when they get home. I have already written my senator today and I plan to continue to write, call, etc. to keep the pressure on. My son came home in one piece and I'm eternally grateful, but my heart breaks when I see these young people with horrible injuries still soldiering on. So I'm not washing my hands of them either.

6:14:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I have nothing to add to this discussion other than I'd agree there's a lot of fake homeless out there. The streets of Noho were littered with them and also people soliticting for fake causes. I have to admit I pass out less money on the street than I used to but it makes me want to fight harder for the real victims against the bureaucracy.

7:44:00 AM  
Anonymous rockync said...

Libby, my sentiments exactly, thank you for putting it into words.

12:09:00 PM  

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