Vets Lead the Nation in Homelessness

Department of Veterans Affairs seal
TAMPA (2009-11-11) -

The troubles that can lead to homelessness such as mental health problems and job loss are not lost on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“We know that veterans lead the nation in homelessness and depression and substance abuse and suicides,” Shinseki said. “And, they’re generally right up there in joblessness as well.”

Shinseki visited the University of South Florida Friday after spending the better part of last week at a VA homelessness summit. It was there that he unveiled a five-year plan to reduce the estimated 131,000 homeless veterans to zero.

“My argument is that if we wanted to take 131,000 people off the street, it’s sort of a mechanical discussion,” Shinseki said. “The issue is how do we prevent it as well as rescue. And so for much of the conference we talked about education and the new GI Bill.”

While he’s excited about the benefits of the new GI bill, Shinseki wants vocational education addressed next.

“We need to look at the mental health aspects of depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), substance abuse and take those on as major initiatives,” Shinseki added as well as providing safe housing for veterans and their families.

Bottom line, the secretary is just waiting for the 2010 budget to pass. If not changes are made, it will mean $ 3.2 billion dollars next year for homeless programs. Of that, $2.7 billion will be spent on medical services and $500 million for housing programs.

“Which tells you that 85 percent of the homeless problem is seen as medical,” Shinseki said. “We need to do something about that.”

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