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DEFENSE COMMUNITIES 360

Communities Struggling to Support Homeless Veterans

  • October 2, 2011
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The number of homeless veterans is climbing as defense communities struggle to maintain resources to support them.  One in five of the 1.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are expected to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and many of these veterans are turning to drugs and alcohol to cope, winding up on the streets at alarming rates, according to the Fayetteville Observer.

Soldiers are getting into trouble as they struggle to fit back into their communities after war, stated a former military lawyer and war veteran.   In addition, behavioral issues stemming from mental issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, have led to an increasing number of soldiers getting released from the Army.

There is a large unmet need for behavioral health care providers in defense communities as they deal with the flood of veterans returning from war.  Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. has added 30 percent more psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers since 2007 to deal with the influx. While the increased number of mental health professionals has helped, the number of veterans seeking mental health care is sharply increasing, and last year, Womack was forced to refer between 100 and 200 soldiers a month to private counselors due to lack of resources.

The director of Cumberland County Veterans Cervices in Fayetteville, said that she is beginning to see more soldiers pushed out of the Army under general discharge and other-than-honorable discharge, barring them from receiving most if any veterans benefits.  Without this safety net, many veterans are losing their opportunity to attend college and are struggling to find work.

According to officials at a Veterans Affairs summit in August, there are more than 500 homeless veterans in the Fort Bragg area alone.

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