Why is it that so many veterans become homeless? I mean doesn't the government pay them right when they get out of the military?
Jon Mixon, USAF Vet
3.8k Views • Upvoted by Joel Postma, In the Navy twice. First as an Avionics Technician. The second time as a Seabee.
Jon is a Most Viewed Writer in U.S. Veterans.
I work with homeless vets and I support the causes that help them. Looking back at the vets who I have worked with and the ones who I know personally, there are several commonalities among those who are homeless:
Untreated or poorly treated mental and/or emotional illnesses -Vets who were discharged for medical reasons (usually psychiatric ones) are often unable to return to the life that they had prior to joining the service. Some remain in or around the areas where they were last stationed; other gravitate towards the major cities as being homeless in rural areas is exceptionally difficult. Since they are in the larger cities, whenever a TV news station wants to throw the vets 'a bone' they rush out a news crew to film the poor homeless vets and they ask the local agencies a few questions. Oddly, the rest of the year they aren't around to help... Substance abuse issues - Many homeless vets were either substance abusers prior to military service or turned to substance to help deal with the rigors of military service. While some become 'functioning addicts' in the service, others cannot and they are discharged. Depending upon the kind of discharge they are granted, what job skill they learned and whether or not they have sought treatment, a vet could easily find himself/herself homeless. Difficult personalities - Usually this is combined with one or the other of the above two. If a vet is a difficult person to deal with in their personal life, they may alienate friends and loved ones who might have taken them in when they were facing a crisis. If they are unwilling to modify their personality disorders to meet their needs, they can find themselves without shelter. It's an unusual case when a veteran is so difficult to get along with where a female relative (male relatives have lower levels of tolerance) or a romantic partner will not allow them remain in a home.
Most veterans never become homeless. They make the transition back into the civilian world with no more than normal problems experienced when people make major life changes. Unfortunately, some have more difficulty and they are the ones who can easily become homeless if things go wrong. I do have to agree with Bruce Feldman on this matter: many of the people who are purporting to be 'homeless veterans' are simply people who have discovered that pretending to be a veteran is an easy way to earn sympathy and money. When in doubt, refer the person to your local homeless support agency or make your donations directly to that agency, rather than giving someone money. Written Apr 29, 2015 • View Upvotes Downvote Comments3+ Share Sam Morningstar Sam Morningstar, Just a tribal guy, knows a thing or two about Native issues. 6.1k Views • Upvoted by Deborah Gahm, Mil spouse for over 20 years Sam is a Most Viewed Writer in U.S. Veterans. No, the military does not pay a stipend or pension for all veterans.
Retirees get retirement pay. Wounded vets may get medical coverage and disability payments, and some vets get managed health coverage depending on their own personal situation.
Also, I know this may sound like sacrilege. But, the veteran status of the homeless population is not really that inflated (based on per capita representation). It's fairly proportional, actually.
What you see more of is non-veteran homeless individuals claiming to be veterans, as a panhandling tactic. This skews the perception that there is a higher percentage than there actually is.
The other thing is that veteran status can be rather inconsequential. Most veterans were not front line combat veterans, and most didn't endure any major hardships while they were in the service anyway (caveat: being deployed to a combat zone and living on a nice secure base which you never left may represent a sacrifice - e.g. being away from one's family - but it is not a hardship either). They basically just got their paycheck through the DOD and had a slightly more regimented or rigid career field. It was not an all-consuming, brutal existence by any means.
This may sound kind of harsh, but the military can attract some real losers too, particularly the Army. These dirt-bags often get kicked out for !^*&*&!ing up and then they maintain this claimed 'veteran' status for the remainder of their lives. So what if someone was a supply clerk for a year before getting dishonorably discharged for a drinking habit and failure to adapt to military life? The brief stint in the military means nothing really. The underlying issues were still mental, psychological, substance abuse, etc.
I'll often chat with the dudes panhandling using a veteran sign or spiel. The last one that approached me was talking all kinds of bull!*&!@ pertaining to my former military branch and a very unique career field that I was quite knowledgeable about, and claimed to have 'seen' some crazy stuff, and worked with agents. So, I was able to quickly piece together that he made it through boot, got to his follow-on training program where he was kicked out for having controlled substances (he was vague), and was on casual status for a little while before being booted (it takes a while to do the paperwork and out-process !^*&*&!-ups), and he probably had some interaction with military investigators. But, he wants to approach me with his 'combat vet' shakedown. !^*&*&! that. I have no sympathy for him or his weak-ass story. But, some people might fall for his !*&!@. And he gives veterans a bad name, in my estimation. Technically you ain't a veteran if you aren't honorably discharged.
There was another guy that I'd run into all the time too. He would hit me up with the same exact shakedown, and forget that he already talked with me. Basically, he would ask how to get to the VA hospital, and he'd be purposely far away (he knew that). He's ask for detailed directions and let you go through with the whole set-up. Then, he'd act like he was totally upset about getting bad directions and being lost and bemoan that he spent all his money to get to the wrong stop. He'd ask for bus or train fair at that point. Well, of course, it gets to be funny when he approaches you with the same spiel over and over.
However, if I find an actual vet down on his luck, I'll bend over backwards. And my VFW chapter routinely helps military/vets and family members with these kind of issues.
I see red when its a matter of faking or selling a bull!*&!@ story. Written Aug 19 • View Upvotes Downvote Comments7+ Share2 Kris Rosvold Kris Rosvold, Navy Electronics Technician 1979 to 1983. E-5
The nature of war is horrific, and it damages people. Often beyond recovery. Stop Loss ' retention ' policies which force service members into additional ' enlistments ' under threat of prison, which they never agreed to. This exponentially increases the emotional damage done. The realization of many Vets. that the war they participated in was amoral, and illegal... this was a particular problem for many Vietnam Vets I talked to at the Suicide Prevention hot line I worked at. This same realization is the reason I flatly refused to go back in service in 1985 after getting out in 1983. Jay Bazzinotti adds another valid point in Comments: Many veterans are on the edge when they join in the first place. The military is their best or only option for housing, food, purpose, etc. When they get out, they have neither the skills nor the emotional balance to settle into the real world. Also, there is a great deal of mental illness in veterans separating from the army and this is exacerbated by the culture shock of leaving their 'mother' the Army, which feed, clothes, houses, instructs and tell them what to do. They can't cope and turn to drugs, booze or isolation leading to homelessness. The military commands are playing politics by giving dishonorable discharges and administrative discharges to veterans damaged (often T.B.I.) by war. In just the 7 years covered by the article (below) these were some 76,000.
The US military has been engaged in a policy of forcing wounded and disabled veterans out of service to avoid paying benefits and to make room for new able-bodied recruits. Identifying injured combat soldiers as delinquent and negligent has lead to a practice called “chaptering out” which results in those soldiers being forced to leave the military without an honorable discharge. Because of this, thousands of soldiers have been chaptered out, losing federally sponsored benefits including health care, unemployment, and educational programs.
This forces them out with zero benefits, zero pay, and a likely result that they can't find any job.
Note carefully that, while it is a verified story, this was (conveniently and most carefully) not reported on even once by any mainstream 'news' media in the USA. Written Apr 28, 2015 • View Upvotes Downvote Share Brad Trnavsky Brad Trnavsky, I teach English Language Arts and coach football basketball, and track. 315 Views • Upvoted by Jeff Kay, US Navy DC1 (SW) Ret. 1982-2005 Unless you are going to college on the GI Bill, medically retired, or did 20 years and retired the government dosent play you at all when you get out. You are just a unemployed American like anyone else. Written Apr 28, 2015 • View Upvotes Downvote Comment Share Jeff Kay Jeff Kay, US Navy DC1 (SW) Ret. 1982-2005 1.7k Views • Upvoted by Deborah Gahm, Mil spouse for over 20 years Jeff has 110+ answers in Military. What pay are you referring to?
Active duty pay? That goes away when a service member is discharged. Retirement pay? One only gets that if they have done 20 years or more, or retired within a a special program, usually after at least 15 years, and not a permanent pay. Inactive reserve pay? Sorry, no such thing. Disability pay? Service members who have a degree of disability incurred while on active duty can receive this, but generally only if the government knows about the disability upon discharge, or the service member can prove it after he/she has been discharged. Proving it afterward is a difficult and lengthy process, and there has to be some indication in the medical records that the condition was present. That's not always possible.
Many veterans are discharged and go on to lead very productive lives, having taken away the best they could from the military, which is a lot. Yet, there are a few that have problems in civilian life, from pre-existing mental issues, to PTSD, to physical and mental problems that manifested after leaving the service.
In most cases, veterans can sign up with the Veteran's Administration, and get treatment from the government, if the problem is a service related one. If the disability is 50 percent or greater, any medical treatment is free, and most other conditions are covered, whether service related or not. If less than 50 percent, then the condition for which the service member qualified with is taken care of, and there may be a cost to the veteran, depending on his/her ability to pay.
Some veterans, however, simply do not seek out VA care. If they have mental issues, it's possible they'll end up on the street. There are a number of initiatives to get these veterans the help they deserve, but sometimes, it's difficult to identify them, so they go unnoticed.
Most veterans returning from war are monitored and offered assistance. Many of them return well adjusted, or transition easily enough, but there are a few that just can't recover.
Homelessness has a number of causes, and it's not usually due to lack of money. It has a lot to do with mental issues and a lack of resources. With veterans, the same causes apply. It may seem like there are a greater number of homeless veterans, but I think the truth is that they tend to get more political attention, partly as a way to point out the failings of the government. By highlighting one or two homeless veterans, it's easy to say this side or that is not paying enough attention. It makes for good press, but neither side actually does much to fix the problem. It's just another political football that gets kicked around and used in election ads.
But, don't think for one moment that the government is handing out money to veterans as they leave the service. There's little enough money for veterans' services, and too many people who think the military is just a money dump in the first place. The men and women who serve get caught in the middle, and an unlucky few get lost in the shuffle, usually the ones that need the most help. Written Apr 28, 2015 • View Upvotes Downvote Comments3+ Share Bruce Feldman Bruce Feldman, Real Estate Consultant in NY. 491 Views • Upvoted by Deborah Gahm, Mil spouse for over 20 years I don't think it's true that 'so many veterans become homeless.' Here in NYC many homeless veterans are neither 'homeless' nor are they 'veterans.'
Many are simply unemployed people who make a living sitting on the sidewalk holding signs that say, 'homeless veteran - please help.' They know that those two words evoke enormous sympathy and result in many times the 'donations' they would receive from passers-by who would otherwise not give them a cent.
The latest trend on the streets is to include a small dog or a puppy to elicit even more sympathy, and hence more 'donations.'
Unfortunately these activities perpetuate the myth that there are thousands of 'homeless veterans' out there who need our help and support. Worse, they steal the generosity of the public from real veterans who may actually be homeless after serving in the military. Written Apr 29, 2015 • View Upvotes Downvote Comment Share Sophia de Tricht Sophia de Tricht, Sailor supérieur, rocket motor design engineer, former intelligence professional 578 Views • Upvoted by Michael Chan, Republic of Singapore Navy (1988-1997) Sophia is a Most Viewed Writer in Military Veterans. No. Transitioning from military to civilian life is incredibly complicated and the military washes their hands of you when you're done. Unless you're a career person or very smart with your money, most people spend at least a little time living with friends or family trying to get a job on the basis of this magical (completely bull!*&!@ false) notion that employers have a universal preference for the skills, experience, attitude, and professionalism that military members bring to the table.
No one cares. What, do you want a cookie for not telling your boss to !^*&*&! off, obeying instructions, and wearing appropriate attire? Here, have one. It reads 'Congratulations, you did your !^*&*&!ing job.' That sort of spells out the whole 'employers love veterans' nonsense.
The benefits that we are entitled to (and it's less than you think, unless you were badly injured during your military service. I can't hear at all out of my left ear and I got nothing) are handled by...
*dramatic pause music*
The Veteran's Administration.
Ask any vet and they'll tell you. Just the words send an awful shiver down one's spine. It is the ninth circle of hell (that being the circle reserved for traitors and betrayers, and also where Satan resides) (It's punishment for him too) (making it the most apt analogy in the history of analogies). Many people, myself included, flat out refuse to go anymore. Fortunately for me, I have the post-9/11 GI Bill, which pays a stipend that one can live off of and also can be done remotely without ever having to feel the crushing despair of having a VA hospital in your sight. Written Aug 19 • View Upvotes Downvote Comment Share James Baxley MA James Baxley MA, Freelance Writer | Blogger | Resume & CV Consultant 1.5k Views No! The government doesn't pay them when they get out. The only people in the military who get paid as soon as they get out are those who do a minimum of 20 years and retire . . . and the government is trying to change that. As in my situation, I didn't become homeless right out of the military, it took me 2 years afterward. But whenever I returned from my deployment (as a reservist) I found that regardless of what the law states, I had been fired 2 weeks into my deployment. When I returned I didn't have the job I left with (this was with Walmart mind you). I did confront Walmart executives and after 6 months of threats I did get my job back . . . all this for a job at Walmart. And it isn't just Walmart that does this, the Home Depot, Lowes, K Mart, and many of the big box companies fire their employees when they are deployed . . . for BS reasons. If you knew the stress that soldiers go through when deployed then you would understand why they end up on the streets. If you saw what they saw then you would understand. Not only do soldiers see death, they participate in death. Innocents are killed in the name of democracy . . . no questions asked. On top of this, they are injected with questionable agents before they are deployed. They are exposed to chemicals and biological elements knowingly and unknowingly. Chemicals in the air, in their water, and in their food. Check it out hereand here They become disabled while deployed. They suffer everything from the obvious of missing limbs to the subtleties of organ failures (from chemicals), experimental injections (given unbeknownst to the soldiers), blunt force trauma, and traumatic brain injuries from the helmets they wear. Another factor is the stress on the family. Many soldiers receive letters from their wives wanting a divorce. How do handle being in a war and at the same time your wife tells you in a letter she wants a divorce. Or finding out you wife is cheating on you whilst deployed. Add on top of that the dysfunctional VA system. I don't have to explain this one seeing how it's been dominating the news lately. Veterans die waiting for their benefits. So the next time you see a homeless veteran, don't thank him and walk off, just talk to him and give him hope. Buy him a coffee and lunch. If he wants money, give him a few dollars and don't question what he will do with it. Most will buy food and those who don't. Well, you don't know what he is going through or have been through. I am a formerly homeless vet so I know the difficulties.
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 Halliburton feeds spoiled food to troops in Iraq! Written Mon • View Upvotes Downvote Comment Share Brian K. Price Brian K. Price, 20 year (and 2 war) military veteran...a lot of Joint time 243 Views The other commentors have provided excellent answers with regards to why veterans become homeless and clarified that military pay stops upon discharge without certain particular caveats (retirement of one form or another, medical disability, or college funds). The only point I would like to contribute is the notion of statistics. The vast majority of veterans do not become homeless. And of all the homeless in America, less than 3% are estimated to be veterans (or as some have pointed out below, claim to be veterans). Probably more importantly, and this goes along with statistics on sexual assault and suicides, is that veterans are an easy to label bloc of persons. They can also be tracked to a certain extent more easily than the general population. Homeless people come from all walks of life. And you will often see percentages based on gender, race, or even age. But aside from 'veteran' there are not too many other demographics representing former employment. You don't generally see 'x% of homeless are teachers' or firefighters or whatever else group. And of course, even among veterans, the demographic isn't broke out by 'served only one 2 year enlistment' versus 'served 10 years' or 'served in the Infantry' versus 'handed out basketballs in the gym.' So while the statistic itself isn't bogus, it doesn't necessarily tell you anything useful. As noted above, 97% of all homeless are not veterans. Does that make it better? No, but neither number really contributes to a good understanding of how to deal with homelessness. The good news, however, is that homelessness in general, and particularly among veterans is dropping off. Written Aug 19 • View Upvotes Downvote Comment Share Lourdes Trammell Lourdes Trammell, Desert Storm veteran, Mobility Officer, Logistics 148 Views The government doesn't pay anyone after they're released from service - sometimes there's a disability check or injury comp. if loss of faculty or limb has occured. VA's free, is all. Maybe there's a college fund, which the serviceman bought into in-tour and can apply if accepted into college. Most of the homeless you see are from earlier decades. This time around, the suicides are the high statistics. Most vets do not end up homeless. When they do, they got back, drifted, couldn't deal with drug addictions or injuries, and were very angry, very terrified, maybe had PTSD or were sick from chemical exposure. If they did get settled back in, they couldn't maintain their relationships, or maybe, they got exploited for that compensation for injury check. Either way, by the time a vet goes homeless, derelict, it's been a long time in the making. I've seen young vets come back from Afghnistan who aren't exactly homeless, but they drift from friend to friend, house to house. They can't settle down. They apply for college and don't go. They apply for jobs and don't make the interview. They can't transition. At that stage, you'll either come out of it, or you won't. If you don't, you might become one of the derelict homeless. Written Aug 19 Downvote Comment Share Maxwell Raincloud Maxwell Raincloud 185 Views Theres alot of pressure on you in the military. Pressure to conform, stay in line, etc. When people feel insulated from their peer group, they end up venting in ways that can be dangerous, and damaging. If there already on the leaderships !*&!@ list, they end up getting tossed out on there ass without benefits. This happens all the time. Written May 6, 2015 Downvote Comment Share Jim George Jim George, bank consultant 86 Views My wife works with vets with traumatic brain injuries, many of them also have PTSD. some of these simply cannot live with other people.
The VA is a disgrace and has been for decades. Long ago I was a Congressional intern and learned why. People write their Congressman asking for help. Their staff intervene with the VA, get the case handled, and the Congressman gets to be the hero!! Why would Congressmen want this to change. Written Nov 18
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