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Veterans Affairs Dedicates Millions To Combat Homelessness Among Veterans

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"Veterans Affairs Dedicates Millions To Combat Homelessness Among Veterans"

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Don Matyja, a homeless Army veteran hanging out with his dog Tyson in Costa Mesa, California.

Don Matyja, a homeless Army veteran hanging out with his dog Tyson in Costa Mesa, California.

CREDIT: AP

Nobody deserves to be homeless, especially not those who put their life on the line to defend the richest country in the world.

To bolster its efforts in combatting homelessness among those who have served, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Tuesday it would spend an additional $14 million in funding to combat homelessness among veterans. Of that, $9 million will go to renovated housing for homeless veterans, with the remaining $5 million earmarked for services aimed at women, the elderly, and people with physical or mental illnesses. This comes in addition to nearly $8 million the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development granted in August to house an additional 1,120 veterans.

Tens of thousands of veterans in the United States find themselves without a place to sleep at night, a problem that has persisted for decades. On any given evening, more than 1 of every 10 homeless individuals are veterans, twice their proportion in society at large.

The most recent count in 2012 found 62,619 homeless veterans. Though this number is unbearably high, it represents a 7 percent decline from 2011 and a 17 percent decline since January 2009.

Still, that pace lags behind what’s necessary to reach the Obama administration’s goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015.

“Until no veteran has to sleep on our nation’s streets, we still have work to do,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said during the announcement of the new funding.

There are a variety of reasons why homelessness is an acute problem plaguing veterans. Many have significant and costly health problems, especially from their service. Mental illness, addiction, and other issues are commonplace. In addition, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans notes that “military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment.”

Still, it’s not an insurmountable challenge. The increase in funding is having a significant impact. While homelessness among the general population stayed constant over the past year, the decrease in homelessness among veterans is directly attributable to more VA money that has provided more than 37,000 veterans with Section 8 housing vouchers in recent years.

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