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Discarded veterans: 'A nation who forgets it defenders will itself be forgotten'

Homeless veteran in New York
Wikicommons/JMSuarez

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, once said: "A nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten." It would appear that our current leaders are going against Coolidge's advice as many veterans every night sleep on the streets of the nation they served.

It's estimated that "one out of every three homeless men are sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country."

The report from 2009, says 34 percent of the male adult population has served in the military, but they comprise 40 percent of the homeless. The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that "on any given night, thousands of veterans are homeless."

The National Coalition for the Homeless says, "America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, or anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America."

Here are some disturbing statistics from The National Coalition for the Homeless:

  • 23% of homeless population are veterans
  • 33% of male homeless population are veterans
  • 47% Vietnam Era
  • 17% post-Vietnam
  • 15% pre-Vietnam
  • 67% served three or more years
  • 33% stationed in war zone
  • 25% have used VA Homeless Services
  • 85% completed high school/GED, compared to 56% of non-veterans
  • 89% received Honorable Discharge
  • 79% reside in central cities
  • 16% reside in suburban areas
  • 5% reside in rural areas
  • 76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
  • 46% white males compared to 34% non-veterans
  • 46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans

The current VA programs don't meet the needs of these homeless veterans. Their programs are severely lacking, for example the Grant and Per Diem Program only funds 8,000 beds. That's a far cry from meeting the need of thousands of veterans who don't have a place to sleep on a given night.

It's said every year, about 150,000 veterans will become homeless. Dennis Culhane said one in every 10 people who served in the military will become homeless. Culhane is an expert on homelessness at the University of Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately too many veterans know what it's like to be homeless. One example is retired USAF Colonel Robert Freniere. The 59-year-old col. who had a 30-year military career and served in multiple combat zones is now sleeping in his van on the streets.

Why is a veteran who had a distinguished military career, was an aide to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, earned three graduate degrees and had an office deep in the heart of the Pentagon homeless? Could it be that our government isn't doing enough to help our veterans? If our economy was in the kind of recovery we have been led to believe he shouldn't have any problems finding work, right?

You can read more about the Col. by clicking here.

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