Homeless Iraq vets showing up at shelters
by : Mark Benjamin
Thursday December 9, 2004 - 18:44
By Mark Benjamin
Washington, DC, U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.
"When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God," said Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."
"I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while," Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.
Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. "One day you have a home and the next day you are on the streets," he said.
In Iraq, shrapnel nearly severed his left thumb. He still has trouble moving it and shrapnel "still comes out once in a while," Arellano said. He is left handed.
Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand — and as he would later learn, his mind.
"It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle," Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.
"It is all about numbers. Instead of getting quality care, they were trying to get everybody demobilized during a certain time frame. If you had a problem, they said, ’Let the (Department of Veterans Affairs) take care of it.’"
The Pentagon has acknowledged some early problems and delays in treating soldiers returning from Iraq but says the situation has been fixed.
A gunner’s mate for 16 years, Arellano said he adjusted after serving in the first Gulf War. But after returning from Iraq, depression drove him to leave his job at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He got divorced.
He said that after being quickly pushed out of the military, he could not get help from the VA because of long delays.
"I felt, as well as others (that the military said) ’We can’t take care of you on active duty.’ We had to sign an agreement that we would follow up with the VA," said Arellano.
"When we got there, the VA was totally full. They said, ’We’ll call you.’ But I developed depression."
He left his job and wandered for three months, sometimes living in his truck.
Nearly 300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and almost half served during the Vietnam era, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition, a consortium of community-based homeless-veteran service providers. While some experts have questioned the degree to which mental trauma from combat causes homelessness, a large number of veterans live with the long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, according to the coalition.
Some homeless-veteran advocates fear that similar combat experiences in Vietnam and Iraq mean that these first few homeless veterans from Iraq are the crest of a wave.
"This is what happened with the Vietnam vets. I went to Vietnam," said John Keaveney, chief operating officer of New Directions, a shelter and drug-and-alcohol treatment program for veterans in Los Angeles. That city has an estimated 27,000 homeless veterans, the largest such population in the nation. "It is like watching history being repeated," Keaveney said.
Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that as of last July, nearly 28,000 veterans from Iraq sought health care from the VA. One out of every five was diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to the VA. An Army study in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 17 percent of service members returning from Iraq met screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder or PTSD.
Asked whether he might have PTSD, Arrellano, the Seabees petty officer who lived out of his truck, said: "I think I do, because I get nightmares. I still remember one of the guys who was killed." He said he gets $100 a month from the government for the wound to his hand.
Lance Cpl. James Claybon Brown Jr., 23, is staying at a shelter run by U.S.VETS in Los Angeles. He fought in Iraq for 6 months with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and later in Afghanistan with another unit. He said the fighting in Iraq was sometimes intense.
"We were pretty much all over the place," Brown said. "It was really heavy gunfire, supported by mortar and tanks, the whole nine (yards)."
Brown acknowledged the mental stress of war, particularly after Marines inadvertently killed civilians at road blocks. He thinks his belief in God helped him come home with a sound mind.
"We had a few situations where, I guess, people were trying to get out of the country. They would come right at us and they would not stop," Brown said. "We had to open fire on them. It was really tough. A lot of soldiers, like me, had trouble with that."
"That was the hardest part," Brown said. "Not only were there men, but there were women and children — really little children. There would be babies with arms blown off. It was something hard to live with."
Brown said he got an honorable discharge with a good conduct medal from the Marines in July and went home to Dayton, Ohio. But he soon drifted west to California "pretty much to start over," he said.
Brown said his experience with the VA was positive, but he has struggled to find work and is staying with U.S.VETS to save money. He said he might go back to school.
Advocates said seeing homeless veterans from Iraq should cause alarm. Around one-fourth of all homeless Americans are veterans, and more than 75 percent of them have some sort of mental or substance abuse problem, often PTSD, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition.
More troubling, experts said, is that mental problems are emerging as a major casualty cluster, particularly from the war in Iraq where the enemy is basically everywhere and blends in with the civilian population, and death can come from any direction at any time.
Interviews and visits to homeless shelters around the Unites States show the number of homeless veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan so far is limited. Of the last 7,500 homeless veterans served by the VA, 50 had served in Iraq. Keaveney, from New Directions in West Los Angeles, said he is treating two homeless veterans from the Army’s elite Ranger battalion at his location. U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans, found nine veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan in a quick survey of nine shelters. Others, like the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training in Baltimore, said they do not currently have any veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan in their 170 beds set aside for emergency or transitional housing.
Peter Dougherty, director of Homeless Veterans Programs at the VA, said services for veterans at risk of becoming homeless have improved exponentially since the Vietnam era. Over the past 30 years, the VA has expanded from 170 hospitals, adding 850 clinics and 206 veteran centers with an increasing emphasis on mental health. The VA also supports around 300 homeless veteran centers like the ones run by U.S.VETS, a partially non-profit organization.
"You probably have close to 10 times the access points for service than you did 30 years ago," Dougherty said. "We may be catching a lot of these folks who are coming back with mental illness or substance abuse" before they become homeless in the first place. Dougherty said the VA serves around 100,000 homeless veterans each year.
But Boone’s group says that nearly 500,000 veterans are homeless at some point in any given year, so the VA is only serving 20 percent of them.
Roslyn Hannibal-Booker, director of development at the Maryland veterans center in Baltimore, said her organization has begun to get inquiries from veterans from Iraq and their worried families. "We are preparing for Iraq," Hannibal-Booker said. (UPI)
Paris: One step beyond in the systemic chaos
Monday 23 - 11:11by InfoAut
FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH IN PARIS AND THE UGLY TRUTH OF STATE TERROR
Thursday 19 - 20:08by JOHN CHUCKMAN
AFTER THE ATTACKS
Tuesday 17 - 23:07by CAPJPO-EuroPalestine
Terrorism victims file $3.4bn lawsuit against Bnp Paribas, violating sanctions
Sunday 15 - 00:18by Kevin Dugan
Slavery, corruption... Larsen & Toubro and Qatar have so much in common
Thursday 12 - 17:16by Robert Scott
Advisers Lock Horns in Yves Bouvier Art Fraud Battle
Thursday 15 - 18:04by GraemeListing72
Smashing the Abbas icon of Palestinian non – violence
Wednesday 14 - 11:42by Nicola Nasser
More Scud than BUK: Despite Fiery Rhetoric, West Beats Strategic Retreat on MH17
Tuesday 13 - 22:28by Daniel Patrick Welch
The Pornography of Hatred
Friday 9 - 19:45by William John Cox
You Mad, Bro? US resopnse to Russia’s Syria action is off the charts
Wednesday 7 - 20:07by Daniel Patrick Welch
Pope’s address to Bishops raises larger questions, contradictions in visit to US
Friday 25 - 14:04by Daniel Patrick Welch
Culture as merchandise, thanks to recent copyright reform
Monday 21 - 11:18by Isabel Adams
BIG DEMO IN PARIS ON SATURDAY FOR THE RIGHT OF RETURN FOR PALESTINIAN REFUGEES
Wednesday 16 - 18:45by CAPJPO-EuroPalestine
What Young Angolans Can Learn from Mirco Martins
Tuesday 15 - 23:52
Imperial arrogance spews from US mouthpieces—"warning" Russia on Ukraine, Syria
Tuesday 15 - 21:06by Daniel Patrick Welch
Wars of Opportunity: West and its gulf allies just won’t stop
Saturday 12 - 20:46by Daniel Patrick Welch
US claims Russia ’destabilizing Syria’ stand the truth on its head
Wednesday 9 - 23:46by Daniel Patrick Welch
AMERICA’S "JUSTICE" SYSTEM IS A LIE
Saturday 29 - 03:41by David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru
Mirco Martins helping Angola children with education foundation
Monday 24 - 23:13
Armed demonstrators protest Sandra Bland arrest, death
Friday 14 - 17:04by seattletimes
San Quintín Valley: From labor abuse to labor mobilization
Thursday 13 - 02:34by Guillermo Castillo
THE COUNTER-REFORM OF MICHOACÁN’S INDIGENOUS UNIVERSITY (1)
Wednesday 12 - 22:07
Rumored Sale of Banque Pasche to Banque Havilland
Monday 10 - 17:17by Bolton Rease
Unwelcome Truths for Church and State
Sunday 9 - 12:36by Gary G. Kohls, MD
Jose Gama questioning an unsurprising development
Friday 7 - 00:09by Cesar Amiente
Rests behind your border Erdogan !…
Tuesday 4 - 11:27by laurentgantner
Let’s raise our european OXI !
Monday 3 - 21:40by Blockupy International
UPDATE: Get somebody with a history, not an opportunist
Wednesday 29 - 06:38by Timbre Wolf
Between the democracy and the war, there is Recep Tayyip Erdogan…
Tuesday 28 - 20:58by laurentgantner
Luanda Poised to Take Its Place on the World Stage
Monday 27 - 22:51
Saturday 25 - 00:05by Timbre Wolf
Grexit, first Act
Friday 24 - 13:09by Raffaele Sciortino
Europe’s Impossible Dream
Tuesday 21 - 16:58by Paul Krugman
"The Streets Of Athens Will Fill With Tanks"
Tuesday 21 - 16:44by Tyler Durden
Who is Flavio Becca? The bricklayer who is about to crash
Monday 20 - 15:04
SCOTT WALKER: SATAN’S CANDIDATE
Sunday 19 - 02:21by David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru
Greece, austerity and the questions to pose
Friday 17 - 22:34by InfoAut
Tomorrow (on Saturday) it will stay 48 hours in Alexeï Tsipras To create the BMG
Friday 17 - 17:03by laurentgantner
Meet Leonid Sedov, the young lawyer behind Ukraine’s corruption
Thursday 16 - 19:27by Oleg Karpov
Maka Angola and Rafael Marques should have nothing to hide from Angola’s NGO ref
Saturday 11 - 17:22by Celia Perron