For Memorial Day this year, wouldn’t it be great if politicians all around the country announced initiatives to house and employ veterans, instead of spouting the usual patriotic mumbo-jumbo that, at the end of the day, means absolutely nothing when poverty and homelessness is on the rise among those who managed to come back alive from America’s horrific wars overseas.
I’m talking about actually helping those who are usually ignored except when it serves the best interests of cynical politicians and others.
Face it, how many people really give a damn about vets, especially when they’re sitting on the street asking for change or getting cited with fines they can’t pay (which then turn into bench warrants and hurt their chances of getting housing), compliments of vindictive laws that criminalize not having a roof over one’s head.
Though they are only 9% of the population, vets make up from 15-23% of the nation’s homeless. They also remain homeless longer than non-vets. And they’re not all men. The number of women vets who are homeless has doubled since 2006.
According to a report published by the General Accounting Office in 2010, “Some of these women veterans, like their male counterparts, face challenges readjusting to civilian life and are at risk of becoming homeless. Such challenges may be particularly pronounced for those women veterans who have disabling psychological conditions resulting from military sexual trauma and for those who are single mothers.”
Next up: homeless gay and lesbian vets, now that we, too, can be all that we can be and go overseas and kill and be killed or return home and face poverty and homelesness.
There are nearly six million uninsured vets in this country, despite the promises of benefits that they received when they enlisted.
“I see uninsured vets in my clinic every week,” Dr. Jeffrey Scavron, a former Navy physician, said in a press release from Physicians for a National Health Program. “In many cases, they’re too sick to work, but not yet sick enough for full disability which would qualify them for Medicare. Only the government can put men and woman into military service and only the government can guarantee that they are covered after they serve.”
Young vets face a 30% unemployment rate in a country that supposedly loves those who “served” it. I wonder if those businesses that say they’re “proud of our troops” hire any of them when they get back here?
The numbers don’t lie,” says Ryan Gallucci, deputy legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, told Bloomberg Businessweek. “The new veterans are going into the unemployment pile.”
This Memorial Day: forget the waving of the flag or the playing of the national hymns. Let’s treat vets like we really care. For a change.