Homeless Veterans

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According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), nearly 200,000 American Veterans are homeless on any given night (Rieckhoff). NCHV - the resource and technical assistance center - reported that the number of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) - (OEF) veterans are becoming homeless much more quickly than Vietnam veterans. As the war in Iraq and Afghanistan continues the number of homeless veterans increases. The next generation of American Veterans is on its way home, and tens of thousands more will return from combat over the years to come. Upon returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan thousands of veterans are facing a new nightmare, the risk of homelessness. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are now showing up in the nation’s homeless shelters. While the numbers are still small, they’re steadily rising and raising alarms in both the homeless and veterans communities. The concern is that these returning veterans - some of whom can’t find jobs after leaving the military, others of whom are still struggling psychologically with the war – may be just the beginning of an influx of the veterans in need. Currently, there are 150,000 troops in Iraq and 16,000 in Afghanistan. More than 130,000 have already served and returned home writes Alexandra Marks (Marks). It is estimated that half of the homeless veterans served during the Vietnam years, but they usually don’t become homeless until nine to twelve years after their discharge. Primarily because the trauma they experienced during combat took time to surface (Glantz). Most of the veterans that served during the Vietnam era are at least 55 years of age or older. The contributing factors for them becoming homeless may differ for this age group as opposed to veterans in their twenties. Specifically due to lingering PTSD which may have been untreated and the lack of family support because immediate family members may be deceased. Subsequently, there are an enormous number of veterans that served during peacetime that are at risk of homelessness due to the tough economic challenges that currently exists. Individuals characterized as homeless are those who lack a regular or adequate nighttime residence. This includes individuals who reside in shelters and other temporary living accommodations. Homelessness amongst veterans is rampant. To be considered a veteran, an individual must have served in any branch of the United States Armed Forces. Their eligibility for VA benefits is based on the type of discharge received upon release from active military service. Young men and women enlist into the armed forces for different reasons. Several of them enlist immediately after graduating from high school which renders them unprepared for combat beyond their basic training. For many service members the military help make dreams come true by providing a better life for themselves and their family. It removes them from negativity and sometimes deplorable living conditions. Enlisting in the military gives individuals the opportunity to become independent, broaden their horizons, visit different states or countries and interact intensively with people from various cultures and backgrounds. This is remarkable because a majority of young adults will never experience or be exposed to the adventures of military life. The military opens doors to an entire new world; it instills discipline and respect for self and our country. While serving on active duty, the military provides a steady income, free unlimited medical and dental care and educational benefits. For America’s men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, transitioning back to civilian life is often a struggle. Many of them are disappointed because they return to a situation at home tougher than where they were stationed. After they put away their uniforms, they now face the mental conflict of coping with the consequences from the years spent at war. The...
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