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America's Homeless Vets, a Causality of Epidemic Proportions

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 8/13/08

The situation with Vietnam era veterans (Vets) is immoral, deplorable, and ongoing! This is a call to our government and the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to update our benefits equal to other veterans, including current educational grants; employment training and placement; and guaranteed VA housing loans! 

Vietnam Vets need to keep their homes, re-education, and updated work skills. The golden years aren’t so golden and we have extended responsibilities, e.g. supporting ourselves beyond 62; helping our middle-aged children stay financially afloat; and in many cases… raising our grandchildren. The retirement age has been extended, now extend VA benefits to meet current living conditions. Help reduce poverty and homelessness, don’t continue to add to it!

According to VA statistics, about one-third of all homeless adults were members of the armed services. One hundred fifty four thousand veterans (vets) were homeless nightly, 300,000 veterans would possibly be homelessness during the course of a year and many were (are) near homeless or at risk [VA 2008]. Nearly all-homeless veterans are thought to be male, single, poor, and/or disadvantaged. Forty-five percent of the homeless population may be considered mentally ill, 70% may be suffering from alcohol or drug abuse, and more than half are thought to be either African-American or Hispanic. [VA 2008]

In 2006, The American Journal of Epidemiology, published results of Vietnam veterans that were drug tested in a sampling during May and September of 1972. It concluded that 52.49% of those tested, tested positive for opiates and showed signs of dependence. And of those with additions, and rather than giving-up drugs… they shifted from heroin to amphetamines or barbiturates.

A common issue that has occurred within the last two decades when trying to help Vietnam Veterans and their spouses, according to Dr. John A. Fairbank, Ph.D., (Committee Member on Veterans’ Compensation for the PTSD Institute of Medicine and National Research Council and The National Academies), happened within the process of recovery, and the actual recovery encounter itself. This issue related to shock, disappointment, anger, and a sense of betrayal. These feelings often accompanied the denial of veterans’ benefits and/or compensation for the psychological and emotional tolls that war-zone-stress had taken on their lives. I contend that this action as noted by Dr. Fairbank, or any action of denial on part of the VA or government regarding PTSD, is reprehensible and immoral!

Today this stress is often referred to as, "posttraumatic stress disorder", PTSD. While the term has only been part of the lexicon since the 1980’s, the symptoms associated with it have been reported for centuries, e.g., shell shock, combat fatigue, and gross stress reaction. [Fairbank, 2007, pg.3]

In the mid 1980’s, in response to unanswered questions about Vietnam veterans’ postwar adjustment, Congress enacted Public Law 98-160 to provide an empirical basis for the formulation of policy related to veterans’ psychosocial health, especially "PTSD."

America has agonized over what to do with the mentally impaired long before the 1960’s. In 1955, congress passed the Mental Health Study Act that established a commission on mental illness and mental health. The commission issued a report in 1961 which was the foundation of the 1963 The Community Mental Health Act (CMHA). It provided Federal funding for community based mental health centers.

Part of the motivation behind the CMHA was class action lawsuits, appalling conditions, and poor treatment in national institutions. This led to the de-institutionalization of national facilities and the prelusion of community-based care centers that were thought to provide a more flexible delivery system. The CMHA provided grants to states for the development of local health centers. This led to the closing of large state hospitals without funding and establishing community-based care facilities. In many cases patients wound up in adult homes, with their families, or without support. The result of this action was that many mentally challenged persons were left without proper care. This situation lead to widespread homelessness. [Wikipedia, Deinstitutionalisation]

The process has improved considerably since the late 1980s, said Dr. Fairbank, but much more may be done to enhance confidence in a system that currently incorporates PTSD compensation ratings into a procedure for assisting veterans currently returning from combat and their families. A hard lesson hopefully was learned from our nation’s response to Vietnam veterans, i.e., we do not want to delay doing our best to prevent war-related PTSD from wreaking havoc on the futures of our veterans and their families. [Fairbank, 2007, pg.7]

Everything possible must be done to help current armed forces veterans return to as-normal-a-life as possible, but Vietnam veterans need help too. We were forgotten once, don’t make it twice. It’s not too late and we are certainly not too senile or old…just ask Senator McCain!

Readers, fax a note to Bob Filner, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affaires in Washington D.C. at: 202-225-9073. Tell him your concerns for the homeless and the need to extend VA benefits for WWII and Vietnam Veterans, (give examples as noted above). Stand-up for what you think is right…"Make your voice heard and your vote count!" 

References:

VA, 2008, From: http://www1.va.gov/homeless/page.cfm?pg=1

Am. Journal of Epidemiology, vol.99, No.4: 235-249, From:

Http://aje.oxfordjournals,org/cgi/content/abstract/99/4/235

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marton888@msn.com
My name is Fr. Raymond Martin FBS, Ph.D. I am a Franciscan priest in the order of Franciscans' of the Blessed Sacrament, Los Angeles, CA. My background includes medicine, psychology, public relations, religion, and spirituality. I am currently (more...)
 

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America's Homeless Vets, a Causality of Epidemic Proportions