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Veteran homelessness attracts attention as U.S. marks Veterans Day


10:44, November 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- As many cities in the United States were holding Veterans Day ceremonies Sunday to remember those who have served for the country, an alarming number of veterans find themselves hard to get a place to live.

The California Department of Veterans Affairs disclosed in its official website that the tragedy of homelessness among veterans persists, even when the economy is robust and unemployment is low.

According to recent studies, unlike their Vietnam counterparts, whose circumstances caused them to fall into homelessness within 13 years, U.S. soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan find themselves in a downward spiral towards homelessness within 3 years.

The California Department of Veterans Affairs said it recognizes the need for outreach programs and information awareness to returning veterans, especially Reserve and National Guard service members, and is working in conjunction with various State and local agencies throughout California to assist veterans transition from active duty status.

According to the Center for American Progress, with the end of the war in Iraq and the involvement in Afghanistan winding down, the United States can expect to see about 100,000 veterans return home. Many will need help and support from safety net programs or job training to transition to civilian life, but that help isn' t guaranteed to be there.

That's because this past fall the congressional "super committee" charged with developing a plan to reduce the deficit did not come to an agreement, according to the center.

As a result, if the U.S. Congress fails to act, automatic cuts will be triggered in January 2013 to both non-war defense spending and domestic discretionary spending, including many human needs programs that provide greater opportunity to veterans and nonveterans alike, the center said.

Already policymakers are pushing to exempt the cuts to defense spending and to take revenues off the table-steps that would place more of the burden on programs that serve vets, cut poverty, and rebuild the middle class, according to the center.

The center said U.S. Veterans are disproportionately homeless. Nearly one in seven homeless adults are veterans, as of December 2011.

More than 67,000 homeless veterans were counted on a given January night in America last year. More than 4 in 10 homeless veterans were found unsheltered, the center said.

Almost half of homeless veterans were African American in 2008 despite the fact that only 11 percent of veterans overall are African Americans.

According to the center, 1.5 million veterans are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Some veterans are homeless because many of them have trouble finding good jobs.

About 30.2 percent of veterans aged 18 to 24 were unemployed according to unpublished 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and nearly one in 10 veterans with disabilities were not employed in 2010.

According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a 2007 survey showed that more than one-third of employers were unaware of protections they must provide to service members, and more than half spent less than 2 percent of their recruitment budget on military advertising and/or did not understand the qualifications of military service.

In that same survey more than half of all veterans were unsure of how to professionally network, and nearly three in four felt unprepared to negotiate salary and benefits and/or unable to effectively translate military skills.

More than 968,000 of veterans aged 18 to 64 had been in poverty in 2010, according to the same survey.

Government support is important to veterans with house, food and health assistance.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs have provided more than 33,000 veterans with houses since 2009 in permanent, supportive housing with case managers and access to health care.

The U.S. Veterans Administration has also provided a wide range of career services, including counseling and training, to more than 116,000 veterans with service-connected disabilities in fiscal year 2011.

According to the Center for American Progress, 31 million of food stamps funding in 2008 was spent at military commissaries to help feed military members and their families who struggle against hunger.

About 1.2 million veterans used mental health services in 2010, the center said.

The center urged that America must continue to honor and protect those who defend the United States by providing the support and resources necessary to help them find stability and opportunity.

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