November 10th, 2009
04:20 PM ET
13 years ago

Senator: 131,000 homeless vets a 'disgrace'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Sen. Menendez said Tuesday that 'Veterans' homelessness is a national disgrace.'"]
Washington (CNN) - Americans from coast to coast are getting ready to enjoy the annual Veterans Day holiday this week.

For thousands of homeless men and women who once served in the armed forces, however, the day is merely another reminder of "the thin line that exists between survival and despair," one U.S. senator said Tuesday.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey noted at a Senate subcommittee hearing on the subject.

"Veterans' homelessness is a national disgrace," he said.

"American heroes (are) huddled over a heating grate in the shadow of the Washington Monument, or curled up on a bench by the war memorials on the Mall in Washington, or trying to find shelter in cities across America."

The VA has concluded that 260,000 veterans are homeless over the course of a typical year, he added. An estimated one in four homeless men or women served in the military.

The increasing number of servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with the economic downturn, Menendez noted, has contributed to a recent spike in the number of homeless families with veterans.

"The federal government ... is not doing nearly enough when so many new veterans are falling through the cracks," he said. "The current system of dealing with their needs is being overwhelmed."

The VA is on track to spend approximately $3.2 billion on programs for homeless veterans this year, claimed Peter Dougherty, who heads up the VA's programs addressing homelessness. Out of that total, $2.7 billion will be directed toward health care services.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki recently outlined a five-year program designed to eliminate homelessness among veterans.

There may be a number of federal and state services, Iraq war veteran Lila Guy argued, but "most veterans don't know what options are out there for them."

Guy, who spent a year in Iraq with the Army, found herself homeless shortly after returning to the United States in 2006. Her husband left her and their children at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when he learned that she would have to redeploy within a year, she said.

Guy was able to get a hardship discharge, but had trouble readjusting to civilian life as a single mother. Finding herself suddenly homeless, she moved back in with her parents.

She was eventually able to move into VA-assisted housing after being helped by her congressman, Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania.

A lot of soldiers, "come back with so many mental issues," she told the committee.

"The transition is hard. ... They train (you) to fight and do all those things (but) they don't teach you how to live a normal life when you get back."

Filed under: Bob Menendez • Veterans Affairs
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. 30 Year Veteran

    If you think there'll be any aid forthcoming out of OB
    and his Democrats you can forget it. Fall on your knees and praise Allah.

    November 10, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  2. Richard in California

    Don't you remember? Bill O'Reilly already put this one to bed. There are NO homeless vets in America. Bill said it! And everything he says is well researched and true. And how could we have homeless vets after 8 years of Bush/Cheney war-mongering while simultaneously slashing the budget for support of our troops both in active duty and after their service to our country. (Up-armored vehicles? What up-armored vehicles?)

    This story is simply preposterous. I've never seen any homeless vets. (I just close my eyes every time I cross a bridge, or pull up to a stop light at a busy intersection.) I've not seen a single one.

    November 10, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  3. T Williamson- Palm Desert, CA

    First off- to all the people who keep injecting "Well, if the Liberals get their way..." or "The Dumb-acrats don't care, they just want to give illegals free hand outs and they hate America and"... ENOUGH!!! You want to know what I've had enough of, over the top "Conservatives" who say they want smaller government that stays out of peoples personal lives unless they aren't white or straight, because then they need to intervene. Veterans need our support in so many ways its not funny. I personally don't want to fight in a war, especially a stupid war that is fighting an IDEA, you CAN'T KILL AN IDEA. If there was a country called Terroristalvania or something "Yeah bomb it" but there isn't, there isn't one country above all others that our enemies hide so this war is STUPID

    November 10, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  4. md from maryland

    NO KIDDING! I worked in downtown Wash, DC for over 20 years and all you saw were people lying on heat grates and huddled in abandoned store doors. There is a park directly across the front door of the White House and a lot of them slept in that park.

    November 10, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  5. Shelly CO

    Sad.... what does it tell about the citizens of a wealthy Nation when they can't take care of the sick ( Uninsured), their vets and their poor.
    That Nation is MORALLY BANKRUPT! Our capitalistic profits, massive SUVs , large bank accounts, our designer handbags etc are meaningless when there are people around us hurting.

    November 10, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  6. Jean 2

    This could be a worthy cause for Republicans. If they suggest the idea and introduce the same, maybe they would participate in a viable solution, otherwise they will crush any thing that cost time and money.

    I think it is shameful for the people that defend this country to be homeless or to try to live without the basic needs of life.

    November 10, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  7. Scott, Tucson

    And yet our politicians can give themselves hefty pay raises and fly around the world on our tax paying dollars this while Americans are suffering.

    November 10, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  8. kr

    A senator in OK is holding up the Veterans bill; this happens to be a republican. There has to be an answer for our veterans for they have gone to protect their country and come back to many problems that are facing them. They do not need opposition.

    November 10, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  9. Billy-Bob-Earl-Darrel-Darryl 12 pak Capt. James T Kirk in a pink tutu

    So then why don't you give them part of your huge paycheck? Ya...I thought ain't gonna happen.

    November 10, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  10. mjm

    Beverly in NC....which Republican started WWII? How about the Vietnam war? How many died in those wars?

    To bad the Democrats are going to spend trillions on some useless public option and Cap-and-Trade. Our vets could have used that money in the VA hospitals.

    The government has a responsibility to the welfare of these service men.....MAYBE we could have done something if the Democrats hadn't spent 2-3 trillion on health care.

    I'd rather pay taxes for that than see two entire industries be destroyed by the Democrats.

    Too bad there won't be enough to go around.

    Hey...Maybe you Dems can pay more than 10-20% taxes?!! Let’s all pay 35-40%! What do you say?

    November 10, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  11. John M, NoHo

    Am I the only one who's embarrassed to admit that I don't trust that every guy with a card board sign at the freeway off ramp is really a veteran? God Bless those who are, and I hate myself for not knowing who is who.

    November 10, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    "The same government that abandoned our Vets now wants to take over health care?!"

    Noooooo, the government that abandoned our Vets was voted out a year ago; the current Administration actually wants to help Vets and our country and is doing something about it.

    November 10, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  13. Geri

    This is a problem of both parties not just one. So quit with the blame game. Our veterans deserve more than they are getting and should be honored. The spending is getting out of hand. Lets stop giving welfare to the mothers who keep having kids & have them step up to the plate and either have a tubal or force them to get a job. Stop giving raises to the House & Senate, cut their benefits down, there's a lot of ways to cut the spending & take care of those who fought for us & served their country.

    November 10, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  14. Steve

    Uh Obama is no better then bush...his new "health" plan cuts VA and medicare benefits.

    Were more interested in giving illegal aliens more and more and turning our backs on veterans.

    November 10, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    People ask how is this possible that we have so many homeless vets?

    Well, look at the idiots who started our last two wars: A bunch of Chicken Hawks, arrogant ninnies who all managed to avoid service (and until you can account for every single day of GW Bush's 18-month "vacation" while in the Texas National Guard, I don't considered him a veteran).

    These same ninnies love to spout off about "protecting America" and "being a patriot" when they don't have a freaking clue!

    President Obama obviously gets it – in part because of the servicemen in his own family. His conduct today at the Ft. Hood memorial service exemplifies this.

    November 10, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  16. LaVon Hummel

    No kidding. And they were wearing invisible blankets when Bushy boy was in Office. Now all of a sudden they lost there powers and there now Visible. I love fairy talez and looks like this Joker dose too.

    November 10, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  17. demsrulz

    Most any labor union has a veteran's committee... Please america support your vets...

    November 10, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  18. Pragmatic

    .... and the Bush administration did what to solve the problem?

    November 10, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  19. That disgrace

    is the product of an illegal war

    That disgarace is aproduct of an illegal war.

    Start with Justice, bring the Previous admin to trial.

    Follow through with compassion, honesty and intention

    It is the only path to to the future.

    It is the right thing to do.

    November 10, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  20. Ellie

    YES IT IS. These men and woman should NOT have to end up on the street after DEFENDING OUR COUNTRY. These men and woman have put their lives on the line defending our freedom and protecting our rights, and this is how we pay them for their service. They can't even get adequate healthcare, military benefits suck. Majority of military families are living BELOW PROVERTY!! That's just disgraceful by any stretch of the imagination. It's truly despicable.

    The veteran hospitals are nothing but political bureaucracy!!

    We are the only country that doesn't CARE for our Elderly, our SICK and our VETERANS. It's no wonder other countries think America disgraces their OWN people, and their would be RIGHT.

    American is NOT the land of the FREE, it's the LAND OF THE GREEDY.




    November 10, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  21. New Father

    My dad came home from Nam' and they way my mom explains; tossed his fatigues in the trash that way no anti war liberal would spit on him. You can blame Bush or the Dems but the point is only the American people can truly help these folks. There are plenty of private organizations out there that help vets. Pick one don't count on any government to take care of the people that served this country. I've read enough articles about all the fraud and waste that ensures the money never gets to the vets. Throwing more taxpayer money at problems never fixing anything.

    November 10, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  22. Bill of Florida

    "Vets. homeless, jobless and forgotten.
    All our government is worried about is giving the lazy and irresponsible a free ride on the backs of the few that still have a job."

    I'm a veteran and I still have a job, but I do not agree with the person who wrote the self-righteous words above. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the people this person criticized are veterans. The government is not into giving the lazy and irresponsible a free ride on anyone's back. The government, I can assure you, wants to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse. In fact, it's getting better at doing so all the time through IT improvements. Welfare to work programs also abound. So, this person who sits in judgment of those are less fortunate might want to think a little harder before leveling such criticisms in the future.

    November 10, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
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