Homeless Iraq vets showing up at shelters

Discussion in 'Homeless Veterans Information' started by stumpy, Dec 9, 2004.

  1. stumpy

    stumpy New Member

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    This article is not about the United Veterans Beacon House, but does point out the homeless problems of Veterans.


    Homeless Iraq vets showing up at shelters


    By Mark Benjamin
    UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL


    Washington, DC, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.

    "When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God," said Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."

    "I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while," Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.

    Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. "One day you have a home and the next day you are on the streets," he said.

    In Iraq, shrapnel nearly severed his left thumb. He still has trouble moving it and shrapnel "still comes out once in a while," Arellano said. He is left handed.

    Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand -- and as he would later learn, his mind.

    "It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle," Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.

    "It is all about numbers. Instead of getting quality care, they were trying to get everybody demobilized during a certain time frame. If you had a problem, they said, 'Let the (Department of Veterans Affairs) take care of it.'"

    The Pentagon has acknowledged some early problems and delays in treating soldiers returning from Iraq but says the situation has been fixed.

    A gunner's mate for 16 years, Arellano said he adjusted after serving in the first Gulf War. But after returning from Iraq, depression drove him to leave his job at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He got divorced.

    He said that after being quickly pushed out of the military, he could not get help from the VA because of long delays.

    "I felt, as well as others (that the military said) 'We can't take care of you on active duty.' We had to sign an agreement that we would follow up with the VA," said Arellano.

    "When we got there, the VA was totally full. They said, 'We'll call you.' But I developed depression."

    He left his job and wandered for three months, sometimes living in his truck.

    Nearly 300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and almost half served during the Vietnam era, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition, a consortium of community-based homeless-veteran service providers. While some experts have questioned the degree to which mental trauma from combat causes homelessness, a large number of veterans live with the long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, according to the coalition.

    Some homeless-veteran advocates fear that similar combat experiences in Vietnam and Iraq mean that these first few homeless veterans from Iraq are the crest of a wave.

    "This is what happened with the Vietnam vets. I went to Vietnam," said John Keaveney, chief operating officer of New Directions, a shelter and drug-and-alcohol treatment program for veterans in Los Angeles. That city has an estimated 27,000 homeless veterans, the largest such population in the nation. "It is like watching history being repeated," Keaveney said.

    Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that as of last July, nearly 28,000 veterans from Iraq sought health care from the VA. One out of every five was diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to the VA. An Army study in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 17 percent of service members returning from Iraq met screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder or PTSD.

    Asked whether he might have PTSD, Arrellano, the Seabees petty officer who lived out of his truck, said: "I think I do, because I get nightmares. I still remember one of the guys who was killed." He said he gets $100 a month from the government for the wound to his hand.

    Lance Cpl. James Claybon Brown Jr., 23, is staying at a shelter run by U.S.VETS in Los Angeles. He fought in Iraq for 6 months with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and later in Afghanistan with another unit. He said the fighting in Iraq was sometimes intense.

    "We were pretty much all over the place," Brown said. "It was really heavy gunfire, supported by mortar and tanks, the whole nine (yards)."

    Brown acknowledged the mental stress of war, particularly after Marines inadvertently killed civilians at road blocks. He thinks his belief in God helped him come home with a sound mind.

    "We had a few situations where, I guess, people were trying to get out of the country. They would come right at us and they would not stop," Brown said. "We had to open fire on them. It was really tough. A lot of soldiers, like me, had trouble with that."

    "That was the hardest part," Brown said. "Not only were there men, but there were women and children -- really little children. There would be babies with arms blown off. It was something hard to live with."

    Brown said he got an honorable discharge with a good conduct medal from the Marines in July and went home to Dayton, Ohio. But he soon drifted west to California "pretty much to start over," he said.

    Brown said his experience with the VA was positive, but he has struggled to find work and is staying with U.S.VETS to save money. He said he might go back to school.

    Advocates said seeing homeless veterans from Iraq should cause alarm. Around one-fourth of all homeless Americans are veterans, and more than 75 percent of them have some sort of mental or substance abuse problem, often PTSD, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition.

    More troubling, experts said, is that mental problems are emerging as a major casualty cluster, particularly from the war in Iraq where the enemy is basically everywhere and blends in with the civilian population, and death can come from any direction at any time.

    Interviews and visits to homeless shelters around the Unites States show the number of homeless veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan so far is limited. Of the last 7,500 homeless veterans served by the VA, 50 had served in Iraq. Keaveney, from New Directions in West Los Angeles, said he is treating two homeless veterans from the Army's elite Ranger battalion at his location. U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans, found nine veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan in a quick survey of nine shelters. Others, like the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training in Baltimore, said they do not currently have any veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan in their 170 beds set aside for emergency or transitional housing.

    Peter Dougherty, director of Homeless Veterans Programs at the VA, said services for veterans at risk of becoming homeless have improved exponentially since the Vietnam era. Over the past 30 years, the VA has expanded from 170 hospitals, adding 850 clinics and 206 veteran centers with an increasing emphasis on mental health. The VA also supports around 300 homeless veteran centers like the ones run by U.S.VETS, a partially non-profit organization.

    "You probably have close to 10 times the access points for service than you did 30 years ago," Dougherty said. "We may be catching a lot of these folks who are coming back with mental illness or substance abuse" before they become homeless in the first place. Dougherty said the VA serves around 100,000 homeless veterans each year.

    But Boone's group says that nearly 500,000 veterans are homeless at some point in any given year, so the VA is only serving 20 percent of them.

    Roslyn Hannibal-Booker, director of development at the Maryland veterans center in Baltimore, said her organization has begun to get inquiries from veterans from Iraq and their worried families. "We are preparing for Iraq," Hannibal-Booker said.
    http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20041207-121848-6449r.htm
    Gloria Santiago likes this.
  2. jwilson

    jwilson New Member

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    I've seen many homeless people but not sure if they are Vets or just otherwise homeless.

    Many of them hanging around the interstate off ramps asking for money. Not sure what can be done about it if they aren't willing to get help. For any homeless program to work the candidates must want to be helped out of their current situation.

    I can't do much for them money wise, but I'll remember them in our prayers.
  3. redpierna

    redpierna New Member

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    What the hek is the matter with you guys? Do you really expect our government to do anything about this? We simply do not have the time, money, will or disire to take care of this simplistic & unimportant problem. Hey, get your priorities straight! Who cares about these individuals? They are a none issue. What good are they for? What can they possibly contribute to this nation? I say there are more important things to worry about. Besides, where will the money come from? Are we to use/divert funds which are now being used for such programs that pay for medical and or hospital care for the millions of immigrants which come to this country every day? Are you crazy! Absolutly not! And, where will we get the money to send overseas to third world counties? I say let us continue to do business as usual. Let the veterans suffer. Hey, this has been a standing policy for ages. Why change now? Besides, "W" does not have to run for another term! Maybe John Scarry could have done a better job with the vets. Who knows!
  4. nurseflo

    nurseflo Member

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    Very good satire red.I was starting to get mad at you. :mad: :)
  5. redpierna

    redpierna New Member

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    Nurseflo, I have a deep love and admiration for what this country stands for. It is beyond comprehention,though, to see how our vets are getting a raw deal from our polical leaders.
  6. nurseflo

    nurseflo Member

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    I totally agree with you Red
  7. Sgtdavisc

    Sgtdavisc New Member

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    I just thought I would add to this thread even though it is a few years old. The problem with homeless vets is amazing. I did 15 yrs in the Army and was wounded in Iraq then while on leave in Maryland going to Walter Reed for a MRI, my car was ran over by a cement truck nearly killing me. The Army told me i was a liability and would have to seek treatment from the VA upon discharge from the Army. So I go to the VA upon discharge and waited 3 months before even being considered. I have been unemployed since August 2005 and have sold everything i own to keep my house. Now its about to be foreclosed on and I will soon be homeless as well. I suffer from Chronic PTSD and Severe Depression on top of my physical disabilities. Have I received any help from the VA? NOPE. They give me mental meds and then file me away in the proverbial "File 13". It's just a shame how "W" has destroyed the lives of so many Veterans simply for a personal grudge.
    anyway those are my 2 cents....this is my first post btw, so Hello everyone and hopefully there won't be a "Goodbye" following.
  8. TinCanMan

    TinCanMan Active Member

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    Every soldier that cannot be returned to duty is med boarded out. Part of the VA's responsibility is to act as a backup for the military medical system. Nothing new there. Did you not get separation pay or a disability discharge? Try leaving the politics out of your complaint and tell us what's happening. OK so you waited 3 mos but they should then be treating you. What's going on with that? Are they refusing to treat you? You have two years after discharge. That should have given you ample time to file a disability claim with the VA for compensation and continued health care. Did you do that? What's the status on that? How about just telling us what's going on. Maybe someone can point you in the right direction.
  9. Sgtdavisc

    Sgtdavisc New Member

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    Well to sum it up, the situation is this. I was med boarded out, I was evaluated and diagnosed with chronic PTSD and major depression. I have been rated at 60% overall with my physical injuries included. I live outside of FT Campbell and the small VA clinic on post defers me to the VA Hospital in Nashville. I live 45 minutes away from the Hospital there and have limited driving ability. So when I do manage to go there for my symptoms all they do is give me Nortryptoline 75mg for sleeping and Anti Depressants. Nothing more and nothing less. I have already put in for a reevaluation months ago but haven't heard anything back. I'm just not sure which direction to go in now or who to go to for that matter to further my resolution of my symptoms.
  10. TinCanMan

    TinCanMan Active Member

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    Sgtdavisc:
    You say you are 60%. Is that an award granted by the VA or the result of your MEB/PEB? What did you get from the Army. Do you actually have an award from the VA? All of this matters and affects how you continue to get health care. Do you have a VSO helping you with your claim? If not, you ought to.

    I'm not a doctor so I can't advise you regarding what is or isn't appropriate health care. Medical science hasn't got a cure for PTSD. The best they can do is offer some meds to "help" with your symptoms and some psychiatric counseling. You could also head to the nearest vet center for some group therapy. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, Get to the VAMC emergency room immediately.

    You're out of the Army now and you need to provide living expenses. 60% isn't going to come anywhere near close and it will take some time for increased evaluation. That means a job. Try to find something simple that doesn't take too much from you. They don't pay a lot but it's better than nothing. Another possibility is to apply for SSDI. Have you done that yet. It's usually quicker than a VA claim and you only need to prove you are unable to work. It doesn't matter why.
  11. pathfinder74

    pathfinder74 New Member

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    AW2 (Army Wounded Warriors) seems to be very focused on helping [Army] veterans who are being mistreated or need help in some way shape of form. I have yet to receive any direct help from them as my process to date has been relatively smooth, but I'm hoping that they will back up their claims when it comes time for me to seek employment.

    I'm currently using my Chapter 31 benefits to go to school full-time. It's a great program and I'm guessing not nearly as publicized as it should be for OEF/OIF veterans leaving the service. IIRC the requirements are percentage based and are pretty minimal.
    Not that I would ever advocate fabricating a condition to get a rating but PTSD and tinnitus are almost impossible to diagnose and the VA gets enough heat without needing to worry about someone bringing more on them by denying compensation.

    Salute America's Heroes is another extremely generous organization.

    Here are some more organizations.

    Also, don't forget about TSGLI.

    Hearing about homeless vets from the GWoT is just disgraceful. If nothing else the services available to veterans are either unknown to them and therefore they can't seek them out or they attempt to apply for them but are sent to the back of the line and are immediately discouraged. I know the VA is trying to put OEF/OIF vets on the top of their priority list, but the reality of it isn't quite as pretty.

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