While people honor veterans today, let’s not forget that a simple parade or “thank you” is not enough for those who returned from serving their country and are now homeless. An editorial in today’s New York Times notes:
About one-third of all adult homeless men are veterans, and an average night finds an estimated 131,000 of them from five decades bedding down on streets and in charity sanctuaries. About 3 in 100 of them are back from Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem of homelessness for Vietnam veterans is, shamefully, well known. But the men and women in this growing cohort took just 18 months to find rock bottom, compared with the five years-plus of the previous generation’s veterans.
And Alex Seitz-Wald writes on Think Progress:
On the eve of Veterans Day, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School has released a study finding that an estimated 2,266 veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they did not have health insurance. That “translates to six preventable deaths per day” and more than twice the number killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.
Being uninsured raises a person’s odds of dying prematurely by 40 percent. The researchers found that 1.46 million veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 lacked insurance in 2008. While most veterans are eligible to receive excellent care from the Veterans Administration, those who were not injured in combat and whose income is above a certain threshold are often ineligible. Others are assigned low priorities, providing them with less consistent and more expensive access to care:
So when the parades have passed and the cameras are turned off, if we really wnat to honor our veterans, we must do better. I once saw this quote, author unknown:
“A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard, or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The ‘United States of America’, for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.'”
If they don’t deserve our assistance, who does?