I am currently a student at Western Washington University. From the class on social stratification, I and my group decided to do a research on inequalities among U.S. retired and active-duty military members. We found surprising statistics that indicate the severity of the inequities that veterans face. This is my second post in a series of four on what we found. You can read part I here.
76,000 veterans are on the streets on any given night, which counts as 12.3 percent among the total homeless adult population in the U.S., according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Taking a closer look into a survey of 5,794 veterans examining housing instability, 4,934 (85 percent) experienced brief instability, and 850 (15 percent) experienced ongoing instability. Instability in this case included homelessness, difficulty in paying for housing, frequent moves, and frequent moves with patterns of increased health and health care issues.
Does government give enough?
The brief answer would be no. Just like every living human being, veterans need secure housing, nutritional meals, and basic physical health care. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training, and placement assistance for transitioning into the workforce after they serve. However, there is an extreme lack of help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Among the 18.8 million veterans in the United States, only 9 million are able to be served by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For housing, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), using its own resources or in partnership with others, has secured nearly 15,000 residential rehabilitative and transitional beds and 30,000 permanent beds for homeless veterans throughout the country. This only covers about 3 percent of the total veteran population facing the risk of being homeless (total population at risk: 1.4 million).
For meals, nearly 3 million veterans and their families don’t have enough to eat each month. More than 25 percent of veterans reported food insecurity in the past calendar year, with 12 percent reporting “very low food insecurity.”
The VA’s specialized homelessness program provides healthcare to 150,000 homeless veterans and other services to 112,000 veterans, which covers about 5-7 percent of the veteran population facing being homeless and broke. Almost 2 million veterans are living without health insurance along with 3.8 million members of their households. Among uninsured veterans, 25 percent said they couldn't get medical care because of costs, 30 percent delayed care due to costs, and 50 percent hadn't seen a doctor within the past year. Interestingly, one study found that veterans are significantly less likely to be accessing community clinics; instead, they rely on shelter clinics and street outreach for medical care.
The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a nationwide poll of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Half of the respondents in the poll said their readjustment to civilian life was difficult, and 56 percent rated the job assessment help from the government as “not so good” or “poor” (to be noted, 51 percent of individual homeless veterans have disabilities).
There is an extreme insufficiency from the VA’s support. Retired veterans continue to rely on the civilian welfare state to fill gaps, such as getting child welfare services and food stamps. Government money for veterans, while important, is very limited, and available services are often at maximum. It is highly critical, therefore, that community groups reach out to help provide support, resources, and opportunities from non-profit organizations. At the same time, we also should know the importance of advocating for better government spending for veterans instead of on new wars.
In the next blog post, we will look at the issue of mental health that veterans experience after they serve.
Written by Kexin Zeng
WWU student, Sociology Department.
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