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Homeless Veterans and Their Service to America

Published: 2015-12-30 - Updated: 2019-02-18
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (

Synopsis: Thomas C. Weiss writes on treatment of U.S. veterans including Veterans Affairs criteria and policy, and care of homeless vets.

Main Digest

Generally, the majority of organizations use U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eligibility criteria to determine which veterans can access services. Eligibility for VA benefits is based on discharge from active military service under honorable conditions. Benefits vary according to factors connected with the person's type and length of military service.


Homeless Veterans in America, Who Are They?

The VA states that the nation's homeless veterans are mostly men, with approximately 9% being women. The majority of these veterans are single, live in urban areas and experience forms of mental health illnesses, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. Around 11% of the adult homeless population in America are veterans. Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans in America are African-American or Hispanic, despite the fact that they only account for 10.4% and 3.4% of the overall veteran population.

Homeless veterans are younger on average than people in the total veteran population. Around 9% are between the ages of 18 and 30; 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50. Only 5% of all veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30 and less than 23% are between the ages of 31 and 50. The homeless veterans of America have served in:

Almost half of homeless veterans served during the war in Vietnam. Two-thirds served America for at least three years and one-third were stationed in a war zone. Approximately 1.4 million other veterans are considered to be at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

While exact counts are not possible; the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates there are 47,725 veterans who are homeless each night. Around 12,700 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) were homeless in the year 2010. The numbers of young, homeless veterans is increasing – yet only constitutes 8.8% of the overall homeless veteran population.

Reasons Why Veterans Are Homeless

Along with the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness; extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care, a large number of displaced and at risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. In addition, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, putting some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for jobs. A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.

The VA and Care of Homeless Veterans

Does the VA take care of homeless veterans? To some extent the answer is, 'yes.' Every year, the VA's specialized homelessness programs provide health care to nearly 150,000 homeless veterans, as well as services to more than 112,000 veterans. In addition, greater than 40,000 homeless veterans receive compensation or pension benefits every month.

For most veterans, the compensation or pension simply is not enough. Soldiers who become disabled while serving America often find themselves receiving a pitiful disability rating from the VA. In my opinion, every single veteran with disabilities in America should promptly be rated at 100%, it would solve many of the issues related to homelessness among veterans.

Since the year 1987, the VA's programs for homeless veterans have emphasized collaboration with community service providers to help expand services to more veterans in crisis. The VA, using its own resources or in partnerships with others, has secured almost 15,000 residential rehabilitative and transitional beds and more than 30,000 permanent beds for homeless veterans throughout America. The partnerships are credited with reducing the numbers of homeless veterans by 70% since the year 2005, a noteworthy effort.

Services Veterans Need

Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance. All programs to assist homeless veterans must concentrate on helping them to obtain and sustain employment. Veterans have many of the same basic needs civilians in society require. These needs do indeed include:

Veterans with disabilities have these needs, to be certain. The VA's disability rating system is completely out of date and does not recognize the sacrifice veterans with disabilities have made in their service to America. The VA's disability rating system simply must be re-thought, re-designed and made to serve veterans with disabilities.

It is my opinion that veterans who are currently homeless and in need of services will thrive if provided with the basics of living and support services. If the U.S. Department of Defense is unable to plan for these needs prior to sending soldiers to, 'conflicts,' or wars - the Department of Defense (DOD) is not being realistic, as evidenced by the fact that homelessness exists among veterans at all. Military conflict is very, very expensive. Financial planning to take care of those who return from their service to America Must Be Included in the military budget. The budget for the VA must increase as well, something certain to drive DOD members up the proverbial wall.

Veteran Groups and Government Money

The most effective programs for homeless and at risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, 'veterans helping veterans,' groups. Programs that appear to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in environments which are structured, substance-free and have fellow veterans who are succeeding at improving themselves.

Money from the government for homeless veterans is limited, telling everyone that the DOD has not planned for their return. It is limited and available services are often times at capacity. It is vital for community groups to reach out and help provide the support, resources and opportunities the majority of Americans take for granted such as health care, housing and employment. Veterans who participate in collaborative programs are afforded more services and have greater chances of becoming productive citizens again.

How to Help

One of the things you can do to help homeless veterans is to determine the need in your own community. Visit with homeless veteran service providers. Contact your mayor's office for a list of providers.

Involve other people. If you are not already a part of an organization, align yourself with a few other people who are interested in helping with this issue. Participate in local homeless coalitions. The chances are there is one in your own community. If there is not, it could be the time to bring people together to help with this critical need.

Make a donation to your local homeless veteran service provider. Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your own community for homeless veterans.

Thoughts on the Issue

It is beyond my ability to understand how a nation such as America could send soldiers to, 'conflicts,' or wars and then leave them hanging when they return from war, quite possibly with forms of disabilities. It is a disgrace on the part of the DOD and elected officials. How a great nation like America can even consider leaving veterans homeless on the street, experiencing forms of disabilities with no hope is something I just cannot wrap my head around.

From what I have read recently, young people in America are more or less, 'for,' sending soldiers to deal with ISIS. The same young people; however, have no desire whatsoever to serve in the armed forces themselves. I do not blame these young people one single bit - the U.S. Government is not holding up its end of the deal where taking care of veterans is concerned, despite the incredible efforts of an under-funded Veterans Administration. If America wants a strong military, it better look to the needs of veterans and veterans with disabilities. Failing to provide for the veterans of this nation certainly is a good reason for young people to put military service out of their minds.

Author Credentials:

Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.

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Cite This Page (APA): Thomas C. Weiss. (2015, December 30). Homeless Veterans and Their Service to America. Disabled World. Retrieved September 21, 2021 from