Homeless veteran receiving medical care
A homeless veteran receives medical attention at a "Stand Down" event. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Iraq and Afghan wars have created a new generation of returning veterans, and many of them have serious issues to grapple with upon returning from service. A growing number of them are returning and facing homelessness and high unemployment after re-entering civilian life.

Veteran unemployment causes concern

Upon coming home from deployment and being discharged, many returning veterans face the daunting challenge of having to find a job and re-enter civilian life. A lot of them are having a tough time of it, according to the Los Angeles Times, as veterans have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. As of June of this year, veterans from the past 10 years, which are referred to by the government as the Gulf War II era, have an unemployment rate of 13.3 percent, more than 4 percent higher than the overall unemployment rate of 9.2 percent. In the past year, nearly 200,000 returning veterans entered the labor force after completing their service. Many struggle with finding employment because they lack college degrees.

Current generation of vets have more problems

According to CBS, the Veterans Administration estimates 9,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars are or have been homeless. It is believed the Iraq and Afghan wars have produced a new generation of veterans with a greater degree of mental health issues. More than 300,000 of the estimated 2 million Iraq and Afghan war veterans have requested mental health services from the Veterans Administration because of head trauma from roadside bombs and psychological trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, in part due to a greater number of repeat deployments. The VA, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, estimates at least 107,000 veterans are classifiable as homeless on any given night in America, though the actual number could be far higher. According to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, during one night in January 2009 an estimated 75,609 veterans were classifiable as homeless, 43 percent of whom were on the street or squatting in a location “not meant for human habitation.” For the year of 2009, an estimated 136,334 veterans spent at least one night in a homeless shelter.

Time will tell

Reasons for veterans becoming homeless vary. Many encounter hard times because of drug and alcohol abuse, and others cannot secure gainful employment. According to a 2008 article on UVa Today, a site run by the University of Virginia, an estimated 1.1 million American veterans were living in poverty, though the poverty rate for veterans was lower than the overall rate of poverty in the United States. The average homeless veteran is single, male and lacks a college degree. Veterans have access to financial aid through the G.I. Bill, but according to a 2008 article in the Boston Globe, successfully filing for and receiving benefits is difficult, and the G.I. Bill doesn’t always provide adequate funding for the full cost of a college education.

Resources for homeless veterans through the Veterans Administration: http://www.va.gov/homeless/

Sources

Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-veteranjobs-20110711,0,3234204.story

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/07/10/60minutes/main20072997.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: http://www.nchv.org/background.cfm

HUD study on homeless veterans (PDF – Requires Adobe Reader): http://www.hudhre.info/documents/2009AHARVeteransReport.pdf

UVa Today: http://www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/newsRelease.php?id=6947

Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2008/02/10/gi_bill_falling_short_of_college_tuition_costs/?page=1

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