Why Are There Homeless Veterans In America?

IwojimaIt upsets me to no end when I read statistics stating there are roughly 131,000 homeless veterans in America.  Why are there homeless veterans?! If the motto “leave no man behind” holds true, why has the US government abandoned the very people who served their country the most?

Whether you’ve served in the military for 1 year or 20 years, veterans  should be able to count on the government for the bare minimum of food, clothing, and shelter.  The government needs to provide maximum support for those wishing to transition to the private sector with job placement and continued training.

GOOD SOLDIERS

There’s no mandatory draft now, so it’s important to realize every single military participant is voluntary.  Who is braver than those who enlist to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Nobody!  We are reminded of their bravery today, but we should be aware every single day of their service to our country.

One of my closest in-laws lives near the poverty line in another state because he cannot find work in his trade (carpenter/electrician).  He served in the army for two years and was told before he enlisted that he would always be taken care of.  His back hurts, and he has arthritis at 62 years old.  We try and help him every month where we can, but we are not rich people and can’t support him indefinitely.  We try and contact the VA on his behalf to see if they can help him look for work and provide medical coverage.  They cannot.  He’s just *this* many years too young to start receiving benefits.  We cross our fingers every day hoping nothing happens to him.

A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE

Just to get a better perspective, I asked a US Air Force serviceman friend of 6.5 years how the government treated him when he served.  His experience was positive, but highlights areas of improvement.

Based on my military experience I think the government and military take great care of their troops while they are still in the service, and very good care of military retirees. Of course there are outliers, but the majority of veterans who fall in those 2 categories have a solid support network and many programs and benefits to help them get by.

The group of veterans who seem to fall through the cracks are those who serve less than 20 years, which is the minimum amount required to receive a military pension and retiree benefits. Many veterans are not prepared to leave the military and enter the civilian world and there is not enough done to give them the proper training and information regarding benefits they are eligible to receive once they separate.The problem can be exacerbated for those with little formal education or service related disabilities, post traumatic stress disorder, and other service related problems.”

This goes back to my original statement: Whether you’ve served in the military for 1 year, or 20 years, veterans should be able to receive benefits from the government.  Patrick has since started a website especially for military folks called Military Finance Network to help out his fellow veterans.  Please have a look if you are a military personnel or veteran seeking personal financial advice!

SOLUTION: GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE + INCREASED AWARENESS

The US government spent roughly $45 billion dollars bailing out Citibank in 2009.  Citibank then turns around and raises salaries for all their senior executives by 50% the same year.  Come on now.  If the government just spent $13.1 billion dollars, they could allocate $100,000 to each homeless veteran for housing, food, medical attention, and education and get them back on their feet.  Someone please tell me why the government is unwilling to do this? Maybe they do spend billions?  I really need to understand.

My generation of war is the war on terror.  My father fought in Vietnam and my grandfather was a captain in the second world war.  He shared with me a great many stories before he passed away.  I feel like somewhat of a dud because I have no military experience.  But, what I do have is a voice, through this site and beyond.  Hopefully this post raises awareness there is a serious amount of veterans abandoned who need help!  Please spread the word!

ACTION: Please write to the White House HERE to voice your concerns.  It only took me 2 minutes.

Keigu,

Sam

Financial Samurai - “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

 

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

You can sign up to receive his articles via email or by RSS. Sam also sends out a private quarterly newsletter with information on where he's investing his money and more sensitive information.

Subscribe To Private Newsletter

Comments

  1. Ken says

    I am with you on this all the way. The bailouts are ridiculous. Those who served deserve access to resources especially job location/ training. I work in an elementary school and am leading an event today to honor local veterans..the children will sing to tham and dress in red, white and blue. We are also serving them breakfast. Hail to our veterans!

  2. RRogers says

    If you have the money to help your relative, I suggest hiring a lawyer, preferably a lawyer from the D.C. area that specializes in veteran denials. My dad was denied VA benefits even though he was disabled and suffering PTSD (from Vietnam). He struggled for nearly 30 years. He jumped from job to job, suffered terrible nightmares and emotional problems. Finally, at 60, he snapped. My mom had to force him to go after the VA. They hired a lawyer, and after a relatively short fight and much documentation, he was approved. He’s still on temporary status, but he has 100% disability and will never have to worry about money or healthcare again.

    I totally agree with Patrick’s observation that veterans who served less than 20 years have the most difficult time. My father served 16 years. I am disgusted with way the VA has treated our vets. It varies from location to location. Tuscaloosa, AL has a wonderful VA, but many (not all) of the other VAs in MS, AL, TN, and TX are terrible.

    Thanks for bringing attention to this nationwide problem. I tend to think we need less of “the government’s help”, but these men and women worked for the government. They went to war when the government sent them, whether you agree with the cause or not. The least the government can do is help them when they return to civilian life. Nightmares, anxiety, and physical injuries don’t go away just because these soldiers have come home.

  3. says

    Hmm, I had no idea there were that many homeless veterans. Doesn’t make sense. I read somewhere once that some city (Cleveland perhaps?) had a statistic showing that 70% of the homeless population were Veterans! Unacceptable.

    The Genius

  4. Geek says

    There should be no homeless anyone. Verterans don’t deserve a warm place to sleep any less or any more than any other person.

    But admitting that we’re all worthy would probably cost more taxes. Hmmm.

  5. Patrick says

    FS, sorry to hear about your relative who is experiencing problems. He may actually be eligible for some veterans benefits depending on which state he lives in, whether his injuries are service related (and documented), if he was in any named conflicts or wars, or other situations. The VA is a great resource, but there are also many state programs available. Try researching anyone who does veterans benefits assistance – you may be able to find someone who can help him navigate the maze of benefits and potentially find something he is eligible for. The VA has some workers who can do this free of charge, and there may be independent persons who offer this service. I wish you family member and all other vets the best of luck.

  6. says

    @Geek
    Don’t think that’s a fair statement. Nobody chooses to be homeless, but some have consistently made poor choices that may have lead to their homelessness. Enlisting in the military to serve our country is not a poor choice. It is an honorable and great choice where AT THE VERY LEAST, our veterans should never be homeless.

    The Genius

  7. Neal@wealthpilgrim says

    It would be nice if everyone could be taken care of. I t would also be nice if we lived forever.

    So, given that we have to place priorities, the Vets deserve first class treatment and they get first place in line.

    Well done FS

  8. says

    Ken – That’s great you’re involved in teaching our young folks early about our veterans!

    RRogers – Thanks for your suggestion, and own perspective about your father. I’m pleased to hear you’ve fought and won some benefits for him. And I’m sad you had to have to fight for benefits that should rightlfully been his in the first place!

    Serving 20 yrs is a long time. Everybody who serves should have the undeniable support of the government.

  9. says

    Patrick – Just look so much of government, everything is so confusing and convoluted that it makes things so difficult to get things done. Fighting my property tax increase was a harrowing ideal for example, why does it always have to be so difficult?

    We’ll continue looking for answers and focus on the VA. I have a feeling my relative needs a more forceful advocate, and I will become one.

    Geek/Neal – Good point about the homeless. Neal makes a good point, and I have to concur. The last people I think would ever be homeless are billionaires and Veterans!

  10. RRogers says

    I do hope you will become your relative’s advocate. There are good people who work at the VA, but the bureaucracy is ridiculous, at best. Please don’t give up. If you can make contact with someone in the VA (i.e. doctor, social worker, etc), you might have better luck. Best of luck to you as you fight for him. I wish all our vets had families that could help and support them. It’s disgraceful that these men and women risk their lives overseas and then have to fight the government when they come home.

  11. Charlie says

    the government/presidents make so many promises they never keep which gets me so angry. I get emotional every time I hear stories about the men and women who serve our country and the government really needs to take better care of them, especially when they are done serving as that is so lacking. I hope there are some good VA programs and hospitals out there because I’ve heard so many ridiculous stories of red tape and bad service. Slightly different topic, but I heard this story in the news last month about a father who enlisted after losing his job and benefits in order to get healthcare for his wife fighting cancer and got all choked up, http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/64677772.html. I hope he makes it home safe and that his wife goes into remission soon!

  12. says

    @Charlie
    Seems like we live in a world of false promises. I do believe our governments mean well, but by the time the final bill gets to the serving table, it looks nothing like the fried chicken you ordered if you know what I’m saying.

    Thanks for sharing the story about the man who enlists to help save his wife! Inspirational.

  13. Bucksome Boomer says

    Thanks for writing about this important issue. My hometown, San Diego, has a large number of homeless due to so many military bases being here AND the great weather.

    One of the problems is that so many of the jobs don’t translate very well to the civilian job market. My son served 5 years as a gunner’s mate in the Navy. They don’t have a job like that and he’s worked low-wage jobs ever since he was discharged 2 1/2 years ago.

  14. says

    Hi Bucksome – Actually, your son has much more to offer than you think. Ex-military personnel are some of the most coveted people by top business schools and corporations in America. Discipline, honor, courage, work ethic is what we see in soldiers.

    I would encourage your son to look outside of San Diego or different occupations in SD (love the area and 68-70 degree year round weather). His opportunities are UNLIMITED! If he wishes, pls have him email me if he has any questions or needs some advice.

  15. ctreit says

    I also find it troublesome that so many veterans fall through the cracks, but I think this is an old American “tradition”. I learned a while ago during a visit to a national park that US soldiers in the 1800s also faced a similar fate. The government did not look after them once their active duty was complete.

  16. says

    BTW FS, like Bucksome Boomer, I want to commend you for bringing up this issue of homelessness for US Vets.

    I scan a lot of sites, and pretty much all of them say the same thing, “thank you veterans” which is fine. However, just saying “thank you” doesn’t make the reader think very much beyond the gratitude.

    You, on the otherhand, continue to make me think, and challenge assumptions. You don’t say the same old thing. That’s powerful, so thank you again!

    The Genius

  17. Sarbrina Bremmer says

    Here are some links for understanding why – the banking system is a total rip-off and unconstitutional:

    7 Page article in The Times on Goldman Sachs
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6907681.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1

    Article in Rolling Stone on Goldman Sachs
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/29127316/the_great_american_bubble_machine

    The great American bank robbery:
    http://vodpod.com/watch/2040248-how-to-rob-a-bank

    How banks gained control of America:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-515319560256183936#

    How to fix bad commercial banks that take in money from depositors. Simple. People power. The Dutch brought an arrogant bank to its knees in twelve days:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8323991.stm

  18. says

    Samurai-san – You raise excellent points. It is a shame that these men and women were willing to put their lives on the line of us and we have left them behind.

    You may have seen some twitter comments flying recenltly, “one day of interest on the national debt could put 123,000 kids through college.” Seems to me would could provide some great care to our forgotten servicemen with the same money.

    It’s a shame!

  19. Lovingkind says

    I remember President Obama talked about some sad situations many of our veterans were in this summer. I don’t remember when the President gave the speech, I only remember I was deeply saddened by the situations. Yes, our country needs to take care of our veterans!! I wonder if contacting through http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ will help.

  20. says

    @The Genius

    “Nobody chooses to be homeless, but some have consistently made poor choices that may have lead to their homelessness.”

    And what about the veterans who consistently made bade choices after they were done their tour?

    “Enlisting in the military to serve our country is not a poor choice. It is an honorable and great choice…”

    Oh, I see. What about a former school teacher who is now homeless. They started off with a noble career, yes?

    “where AT THE VERY LEAST, our veterans should never be homeless.”

    If you want to volunteer to be the judge of who has made “noble” choices and who hasn’t (before they made bad choices), be my guest. But then again, a lot of people wind up on the streets for other reasons — like mental illness. Easier to chalk it up to bad life decisions, though.

    Thought provoking post, thanks FS.

  21. says

    @The Genius
    Thanks for your comments! I figure, why not dig deeper into issues, especially serious ones like this to raise awareness? Nothing is really black and white, and another reader e-mailed me saying, “how many of the 131,000 vets served honorably?” I don’t know. Maybe some of them abused the system, but I would say for the most part, many did not. Best, Sam

  22. says

    I’m a veteran, and I’ve worked in a VA medical center (I did a co-op when I went back to college after transferring from active duty to the Air National Guard). The VA’s budget has always been a low priority, when I was there the Clinton administration slashed funding and since then Homeland Defense is top priority. As a veteran I would only go to the VA out of desperation and sheer necessity. If you want to improve the situation contact your congress person and senators about increasing funding for the VA.

    As for the veterans, some of them I’ve spoken to are scam artists. They’ve run up to me when I was in uniform and are quick to ask for a hand out, but when I offer to buy them food or pay for a motel room they’ve got a hundred excuses why it has to be just cash. And when you question them about what they did in the military a lot of them were stateside for less than four years and had problems with their commanding officers.

    Just a bad situation all around with no simple fix. Not enough money for legitimate needy veterans and too many bad apples giving the rest a bad name.

    • says

      Hi David – Thanks for your thoughts. It’s interesting to hear feedback from two veterans now that say there are actually plenty of fraudulent veterans looking for hand outs. That is a tough situation indeed.

      It’s a shame that you’d only go to the VA out of desperation. That doesn’t sound right. They should welcome everyone with open arms and help where they can. Why make things so difficult?

      Thanks for sharing your perspective Dave! FS

  23. says

    One of the charities I donate to is http://www.neshv.org (New England Center for Homeless Vets) I also include it as a link on my blog under “charities to consider.”
    The men who have served are at the top of my list for support and attention. We can’t just abandon them.

    I wrote a post after a trip earlier this year to LA. On the boardwalk, a Vet came by asking for money, and was wearing what looked to be legit ID. I pulled out a few dollars and said “thank you for serving.” He smiled and said I just gave him enough for lunch, but then said “you’re the first person to thank me….”

  24. RRogers says

    I do understand that there are scam artists. I am sensitive to that, completely. I take the biggest issue with our foreign war vets being denied coverage. When my grandfather (WWII), uncle (Korea and Vietnam) and father (Vietnam) signed up, they made a “pact” if you will, with the government. It was understood that if they served their country, their country would take care of them (i.e. the VA). When the time came for the government to do that, they denied responsibility and coverage until we hired lawyers. That’s not right. My father is a combat veteran. He did not choose create the war, but he served his country willingly and bravely.

    I took my dad to the VA for dental work once, and while we were there, a young, female Iraqi war vet began talking about her experience overseas and her experience once she came home. It was so sad. She’s lost her family (divorce), her job and nearly her mind. PTSD consumed her. A WWII was sitting in there listening just nodding his head. My dad said later that he too knew what she was experiencing.

    I feel very strongly about our combat veterans. They deserve the best doctors, the best medicine. They risked their lives and sometimes lose everything that matters to them just to serve their country. I believe we owe them more than third rate treatment when they come home.

  25. says

    Hunh, I can’t believe I didn’t comment on this already. It is a shame that veterans in particular seem to suffer from physical and psychological problems that can result in homelessness, especially after all they have done for our country. It’s a travesty.
    .-= Roger´s last blog ..Net Worth Update: Christmas Shopping is On =-.

    • says

      Roger – It is a travesty! If you click on the link below on the post, feel free to share your thoughts to the White House! Took me 2 minutes. Sam-urai

  26. tim says

    I served 3.5 years in the army.i spent 1.5 years in iraq. ive been out for 11 months applied to over 60 jobs.I have not heard from any of them i dont get it i can go fight in iraq but cant get a stupid security gaurd job.iam so frustrated i cant even sleep at night

    • says

      Tim – That is an utter tragedy and complete horsesh*t that you that employers aren’t giving you a chance, and the government isn’t doing EVERYTHING possible to make sure you are gainfully employed!

      Is there anything I can do? Maybe I can help pass along your resume or contact some people on your behalf. Feel free to e-mail me.

  27. tim says

    admin-thank you for your concern.here is a copy of my resume.. Timothy B Cain

    406 Cressmont Ave

    Blackwood NJ 08012

    Summary:

    Proven experience in supervising and maintaining military equipment to The United States Army standards. Proven ability to work in a fast paced environment and multi task. Consistent record of work dedication and ethics. Able to work in a group setting to achieve a common goal.

    Professional Experience:

    Vehicle Commander in Stryker Brigade (Infantry)

    United States Army, 2005-2009

    -Repaired hydraulic, lubrication lines, and pumps

    -Performed wire harness repairs

    -Read and interpreted blue prints and drawings for the Stryker

    -Diagnosed malfunctioning equipment during combat situations and made corrective actions

    -Proficient in various military systems such as thermal imaging, global positioning, and automatic fire extinguishing systems

    -Followed Army’s expectations for tool and personal accountability

    Maintenance Mechanic/Brick Mason

    S.E.B Realty, 2003-2005

    -Made repairs to plumbing and electrical concerns in building units.

    -Diagnosed and overhauled maintenance equipment.

    -Re-pointed buildings and external brick work structures

    Education:

    Camden County Vocational School, 1999-2003

    Erial, New Jersey

    -Specialized training and courses in plumbing and brick laying

    United States Army sponsored courses, 2005-2009

    Fort Lewis WA

    -Radio Transmission Operator

    -Combat Life Saver

     

    Achievements:

    While serving 18 months in Iraq, earned the Oversees Service Ribbon, Combat Infantry Badge, and the Campaign Medal with bronze service star.

  28. Bonnie Wilson says

    I am a disabled veteran, I’m only 27 years old. I only served for two years in Sardinia Italy. I will tell you that trying to get help for the traumas I’ve experienced in the Navy has been a complete slap in the face by my own country. Our country will help anyone before our own people.
    I was sexually assaulted while in service which is actually still VERY common, the only difference now is that most of us are to afraid to come forward due to the way we are treated if we do. IF we survive reporting it and going through months of working with the person who sexually assaulted you, you might get a trial and have that person removed from service. But in my case the guy had been appealing the case and 5 years later he got all his benefits back.
    Now, NOTHING was in my service record about the trial or sexual assault, and if I would not have made a copy of my medical records, I would have no proof I was ever assaulted. I’ve been seeing VA since 2003, and only because I can’t afford anything better on SSD checks.
    From the second you join you are a pawn, once they have broke you physically or mentally, they get rid of you and never think twice about it.
    Wanna know why a LOT of veterans appear to be liars or trying to get something out of the government that we were told would be handled?
    Because we did serve and some of us were hurt by our OWN team…. Yet once we are not suitable any longer due to abuse and neglect we are discarded for a new young kid to Fup.
    That is the honest to god truth about our Government and how much they CARE…
    WE fight for the rest of our lives to survive, and then people have the nerve to judge. I don’t judge you. God bless all of you who respect our veterans and the true Sacrifices they ALL have made.

    • says

      Hi Bonnie – I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Thank you for shedding light on it. If you don’t mind, I plan to highlight your thoughts in an upcoming post so we can dig deeper. I hope for the best for you! Stay strong!

      Best, Sam

  29. says

    good topic. no vet should be homeless or hungry or broke.

    Our govt could stop wasting money, cut back on money it sends to countries that hate us, and help the vets more.

    thanks for bringing this topic up.

  30. says

    This is a strong post – as with the author, I am not a veteran, but am related to several. All would agree that being a veteran doesn’t absolve anyone from holding personal responsibility for their own lives, but our government, when calls these men and women into harm’s way, holds a debt to do everything possible to provide a support structure for them when they come home. Education, affordable health care, etc. This is the bare minimum of respect owed our soldiers.

    Take care,

    Sully

  31. says

    I am not a veteran, but I can understand why some veterans may seem like “scam” artists. I think a lot of veterans end up with traumatic memories of their experience, and probably a lot suffer from post tramautic stress disorder. Some go for alcohol or drugs to try and stop the pain of remembering their veteran experience.

    I think that it should be up to the government to try and help these veterans as best they can- it’s the least the society can do, right?

  32. says

    The least that the government can do is take care of those who fought to defend this country. I have always thought that military wages are obscenely low.

  33. says

    That is so sad to read too, they are supposed be carried by our government since I think there are privileges of giving them and their family a home to live to. Veterans should provide with all their needs with our government after they had sacrifices their lives for the country.

  34. Stephanie Daniels says

    I think you are right, there are too many veterans homeless in this country….If they are Promised they are going to be taken care of when they sign up for the military, then they Should Be….I hate to see this….I actually try to stay away from the news, and the negativity of everything that is out there….it is saddening to see the actual truth of America…ANYONE who signs up to save our country SHOULD BE TAKEN CARE OF!!! I don’t care if they served 1 month,…..they signed up with NO WORRIES!!!…Our government is too greedy to see these issues and sticking money in there own pocket and THE BANKS for that matter…and on another note….it is our fault also….Who Really thinks that anything we say or do will change our greedy government… why do you think they bailed out the banks, because we too are guilty of trying to live a life that we all can’t afford!!!!! I am getting on another subject but…it is too much……the innocent sign up to protect us, while we live our overly exaggerated lives, then who does the government bail out? The Banks…so we can sign up for more credit while the veterans go homeless!!!!!

  35. OIF Vet says

    Because they make it so damn hard to get your benefits that by the time you get the first taste your tank is so far past empty that most give up.

  36. Juan Miguel says

    Thanks alot for forcing us against our wills to pay mortgages and then evicting us unremorsefully from our houses Mr. Obama,Vladimir Putin,Prime Minister Tony Blair,etc. This is where governments are a problem.

  37. alexi says

    This sounds silly. I only agree IF the veteran has a disability such as ptsd or physical injury. If, however, he’s perfectly healthy, then the government has no obligation to take care of them for the rest of their lives. Whoever thinks that is delusional. Retirement benefits after 20 years? Yes. Disability benefits? Yes. Freebies forever because you served for a few years? I think not. Also, unemployment in healthy non disabled veterans could have many reasons. Men who enlist usually have little education or other options. The economy also plays a role so that everyone, including vets, have a harder time finding jobs. That said, if a disabled veteran is being denied help, he should absolutely fight it. There are plenty of disability attorneys who don’t charge a fee until they win the case.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *