As more young veterans of recent wars leave the military, the number of them falling on hard times and homelessness continues to rise sharply.
by Gregg Zoroya - USA TODAY
Nearly 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were either homeless or in a federal program aimed at keeping them off the streets during 2013, almost triple the number in 2011, according to numbers released Thursday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The number among this generation falling on hard times is rising sharply even as homelessness among veterans of all ages and conflicts has been on the decline, according to the VA.
Advocates for the homeless say many of the estimated 2.5 million Americans who served in the two wars went into combat zones on multiple deployments, something many veterans of previous conflicts never had to endure.
“They’re coming home to a bad economy. The country is different. Their families are different. They are different. Plus they are dealing with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other issues around mental health,” says Gregory Scott, president of New Directions For Veterans, a non-profit assistance group in Los Angeles.
“We don’t know what the long-term impacts will be on the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans,” says John Driscoll, president and chief executive officer of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans struggling with homeless issues has grown because the department has expanded efforts to identify and assist them. The department has programs throughout all 50 states, working with community groups to target homeless veterans, and as a consequence, a more accurate picture of the number of these veterans is emerging.
A lack of affordable housing has contributed to veteran homelessness, the VA says.
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