Precilla Wilkewitz, President
Two pressing problems among our veterans are linked: joblessness and homelessness.
Government has never gained a statistical grip on unemployment among disabled veterans. Yet employers do discriminate against handicapped people, including veterans disabled in our armed forces.
Imagine that: being denied a decent job not in spite of – but because of – the sacrifices you made for America! It’s an insult to the blood of American heroes!
When it comes to our youngest veterans, the Labor Department has a clearer picture. Those under 25 face staggering unemployment – around 30% right now. Without jobs, young heroes are losing their homes and watching their families fall apart.
Joblessness forces far too many young and disabled veterans out onto our city streets … or into the wilderness and hidden corners of rural America.
These vets make up a wildly imbalanced percentage of homeless people in America. Accounting for 10% of our population, veterans make up 20% of all homeless people; 107,000 heroes have nowhere to sleep tonight. It shames the greatest, strongest nation on earth.
As the Disabled Veterans National Foundation does its utmost to help these desperate heroes, we must also work to help the many more who are at risk of falling into homelessness.
These brave men and women have families to support and bills to pay. Yet they hover on the economic edge, barely getting by with what little help they can find.
These heroes fought to protect the American Way of Life; but, when they came home, the door to the American Dream was slammed in their faces.
Why has unemployment – leading to homelessness – grown to such tragic proportions? For one thing, too many employers just don’t understand how much veterans bring to the workplace:
- They’re trained to show up, no matter what … and be there on time.
- They understand commitment, having carried on under the most difficult circumstances.
- They know what it means to work hard, having performed under trying stress.
- They offer deeper experience and far more leadership than others their age.
- The list goes on and on.
Employers cheat themselves when they look past all this, particularly if they avoid veterans based on fear of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though common among veterans, PTSD almost never becomes an issue on the job.
However, I must tell you that combat-related mental health issues can grow so severe that some veterans cannot function in normal society, especially true if they turn to alcohol or drugs rather than seek professional treatment.
Though small in number, these veterans present a genuine challenge to the nation they served. Unable to care for themselves, they’re overtaken by homelessness … and not the same kind of homelessness that results from a temporary misfortune.
Those who most need our help are so damaged that homelessness becomes a way of life.
Don’t believe people who say these American heroes “choose” to live this way. Nobody wants to live on the streets, surviving like a lost dog. These individuals need care and treatment; they don’t need to be pushed outside the fringes of society.
After these heroes stood up for you and me, protecting our freedom, the least we can do is help them get the support and guidance they need and deserve. It’s a huge job:
- tackling the roots of homelessness,
- preventing at-risk veterans from becoming homeless, and
- helping the thousands who need the programs and services of the Disabled Veterans National Foundation.
But, by working together, you and I can make a difference in the lives of veterans who lived through war only to slip into the worst kind of poverty, destitution and isolation.
No American hero should have to endure the humiliation of joblessness or the horror of homelessness. To learn more about what you can do, visit the How You Can Help page of the DVNF website … and thank you for your abiding compassion.
Visit The Disabled Veterans National Foundation on LinkedIn.