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Veterans Homelessness is a National Security Issue

About 70 percent of 18-25 year-olds who might consider joining the military are ineligible for service due to unhealthy living. That leaves a dirth of eligible candidates for military service. The remaining 30 percent, enjoy the benefit of a decent economy, relatively low unemployment, and expanded college options as alternatives. So imagine being a young person in Washington DC, where you’re more likely to encounter a homeless veteran than an Army recruiter. On the one hand you may learn that military service offers money, travel, new skills, and a noble purpose, and on the other hand you may see the impacts of danger, prolonged separation from family, red tape when seeking earned benefits, and possible health problems. Not to mention the risk of becoming one of the 22-a-day who commit suicide or becoming one of the homeless veteran population.

Veteran homelessness is a vivid barrier to recruitment because it is a most visible problem in our society. Hearing about the litany of problems some veterans face is one thing. Suicide is the 10th largest cause of death in the US, with veterans accounting for 18% of all deaths by suicide. Passing a homeless person on the street is a more common experience than knowing a veteran who has actually committed suicide.

Whether one chooses to avert his eyes as he passes by to avoid making a connection, or she drops a five- dollar-bill in a beggar’s cup as she leaves the coffee shop with a seven-dollar “triple mocha something sweet,” in hand, the person is forced to acknowledge that homeless veterans are alive and living in Washington, DC. Add the baseball cap indicating service during a time of war, or the sign they hold in their hand noting prior military service and requesting help, and one tends to associate service with homelessness which may lead to a lack of desire to serve one’s country by many eligible candidates.

A shortage of affordable housing, no access to a living wage, an inability to manage mental health challenges, and a lack of family and social support are the general causes of veteran homelessness. Mental health issues that are unique to veterans, substance abuse abetted by the over prescription of addictive drugs in the VA Hospital System, medical problems linked to over vaccination while in active duty environments, and managing the transition from military to civilian employment increase the likelihood that too many veterans will fall to the margins of society. We want to end veteran homelessness to repay a debt that has been left outstanding, and so that it will no longer be a barrier to those who are eligible and willing to serve their country. Access the full article here: National Security op-ed FINAL – MRA