America we have a serious problem in this country when a veteran is not ashamed to ask for spare change or beg for a place to sleep when the shelters are full but they are too proud to ask for help to heal, stop self-medicating themselves to death and do whatever it takes to hold their families together. What's wrong with us? As the media reports more and more on PTSD how is it that the numbers of homeless veterans, attempted suicides and successful suicides goes up instead of down? How is it that with years of covering the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, they have not managed to get it into our brains that this nation needs to fully mobilize to help them come back home? Read this from July.
Homeless veterans face new battle for survival
More veterans are facing a new enemy on the nation's streets
Veterans make up almost a quarter of homeless population
Homeless rate among veterans expected to rise
By Mike Mount
(CNN) -- "I can't find the right words to describe when you are homeless," says Iraq war veteran Joseph Jacobo. "You see the end of your life right there. What am I going to do, what am I going to eat?"
Jacobo is one of an increasing number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who come home to life on the street. The Department of Veterans Affairs is fighting to find them homes.
Veterans make up almost a quarter of the homeless population in the United States. The government says there are as many as 200,000 homeless veterans; the majority served in the Vietnam War. Some served in Korea or even World War II. About 2,000 served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The VA and several nongovernmental organizations have created programs that address the special needs of today's veterans returning from war. In addition to treating physical and mental injuries, there are career centers and counseling programs. But the VA still expects the homeless rate among the nation's newest veterans to rise because of the violent nature of combat seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Officials say many more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer post-traumatic stress disorder than veterans of previous wars. The government says PTSD is one of the leading causes of homelessness among veterans.
"They come back, and they are having night trauma, they are having difficulty sleeping. They are feeling alienated," says Peter Dougherty, the director of homeless programs for the VA.
The VA says 70 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan saw some form of combat, either through firefights, rocket attacks or the most common strikes on troops -- roadside bomb attacks on their vehicles.
That is three times the rate of combat experienced by Vietnam veterans, according to the VA.
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Maybe it didn't matter than much back then because it was the summer after all and the weather was warm. We tend to not think of the homeless when it's not freezing outside but we never stop to think about things like them swelter in the heat of a summer day and not having enough fluid in them to stay alive. Well this is approaching winter as snow comes into parts of the nation right now and ski enthusiast take to the slopes. Better start to think about them if you managed to forget about them the rest of the year.
We really have a bigger problem than we know about. It's because of the attitudes of so many disinterested people in this country we have the veterans and their families falling apart with so little help from their own communities. Sure things are better than they were when the veterans came straggling home from Vietnam one by one, but National Guards and Reservist go straggling back to jobs and businesses one by one. Veterans go back to school or begin civilian jobs one by one. They are left to wonder if they are the only one going through what they are going through. Wouldn't it be great if they had a friend to talk to who knew exactly what the "thing" was when their friend mentioned it? Wouldn't it be wonderful if a wife confided in a co-worker or parent about the changes in her husband and have the person respond with "It may be PTSD" instead of silence or "you should leave him" the way people will use blanket responses instead of informed ones. It would really be even better if no one ever had to wonder what PTSD was because they had been exposed to it so much that it was as obvious as talking about any other illness from erectile dysfunction to bone loss in women. But it isn't and it isn't very likely to happen unless all the information out there gets as much attention.
The obvious answer would be for the pharmaceutical companies making the drugs to treat PTSD to do what they do for the other illnesses they push pills for and make people wonder enough to learn. That would be a great place to start to stop the veterans from being too proud to ask for help but not too proud to beg for pocket change. When you think about it, think about the lack of commercials on it, it's easy to understand why most of this is happening and will very likely get much worse.
International Fellowship of Chaplains
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington