A new ‘band of brothers’? Vets make up 25 percent of homeless nationwide

Alternet posts a damning story on the crisis of homelessness among military veterans. What next? Shall we festoon yellow ribbons on homeless shelters and abandoned buildings in a display of “support the troops” patriotism?

On any given night 200,000 U.S. veterans sleep homeless on the streets of America. One out of every four people — and one out of every three men — sleeping in a car, in front of a shop door, or under a freeway overpass has worn a military uniform. Some like [San Francisco resident and Vietnam veteran Roy Lee] Brantley have been on the streets for years. Others are young and women returning home wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan, quickly slipping through the cracks.

For each of these homeless veterans, America’s promise to “Support the Troops” ended the moment he or she took off the uniform and tried to make the difficult transition to civilian life. There, they encountered a hostile and cumbersome bureaucracy set up by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In a best-case scenario, a wounded veteran must wait six months to hear back from the VA. Those who appeal a denial have to wait an average of four and a half years for their answer. In the six months leading up to March 31st of this year, nearly 1,500 veterans died waiting to learn if their disability claims would be approved by the government.

Colorado Department of Human Services spokeswoman Karen Beye told CBS 4 that an estimated 3,200 men and women ex-service members are living on Colorado streets — about 20 percent of veterans living in the state — according to an Aug. 7 news report on a $1 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant to provide 210 housing vouchers for homeless veterans and their families.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has more information and a list of suggested resources for veterans and concerned community members.

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