According to the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) there are approximately 40,000 of our 21.8 million veterans in the United States that are considered homeless. This is about 18% of our total veterans. And yes, this number is terrible.
Of the 21.8 million veterans it is estimated that about 3.2 million of them receive some sort of disability pension. However, to be considered a disabled vet worthy of pension, the individual has to be deemed unable to work by a doctor or be older than 65. There are different programs for different levels of service. Wartime Veterans automatically qualify for higher compensation rates, as well as legally disabled vets. They also cannot be dishonorably discharged to receive benefits/compensation.
Below is a chart of the income limits for veterans. If your income is less than the stated amounts, you will be paid a pension equal to the difference of your income and Aid amounts. I.E. if you are receiving basic pension and your annual income is $10,000 the government will pay you the additional $2868.
2016 Basic / Housebound / Aid and Attendance Income Limits
|Veteran Family Status||Basic Pension
|Aid & Attendance
|Veteran with no dependents||$12,868||$15,725||$21,446|
|Veteran with a spouse or child*||$16,851||$19,710||$25,448|
|Surviving spouse / death pension||$8,630*||$10,548||$13,794|
*Add $2,198 for each additional child
Our Active Military budget is $597 Billion.
Our VA budget is $182.3 Billion
Our Veterans Reintegration Budget is 36.7 million dollars and is dispersed to about 156 different organizations across the country.
Our Refugee budget is 1.56 Billion
Our Foreign Aid budget is about 50.1 Billion
Our estimated total cost of all Congress BASE Salaries is about $800 million.
Of our 21.8 million veterans, 2.7 million are Iraq/Afghanistan War Veterans. 20% of these veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD. We believe this is nowhere near the number actually suffering as many don’t seek treatment or acknowledge the existence of their mental illness. 260,000 are considered to have traumatic brain injury.
It is estimated that 70% of all veterans are or at some point have been substance abusers. 11% admit to abusing prescription drugs. In 2014 our Veteran suicide rate reach above civilian suicide rates: 20.2 vs. 19.2 per 100,000 people.
However, substance abuse disqualifies a veteran from receiving pension benefits, as does an dishonorable discharge or not being considered disasbled. PTSD is not considered a disabling disease, though it absolutely should be.
There is a serious disconnect in our country on how we treat veterans. We want to give them support but don’t acknowledge the real consequences of wartime. Reintegration needs more money and more resources. We need to focus more on easing the transition between active duty and civilian life so that we can better serve the mental health needs of our veterans. By focusing on providing resources to identify and treat PTSD/GAD/Bipolar/Depression we can easily combat the thousands of homeless/disabled vets in this country.
Mental Health is what is harming our veterans. Budget cuts proposed by both parties in Congress is what is harming our veterans.
But there is hope:
There are numerous bills in house to assist. Some increase pension rates while lowering the thresholds for qualifications. Some are proposing tax credits to landlords who rent to veterans. Many are attempting to convince President Trump not to include the VA in the current hiring freeze so that we may continue to sufficiently serve our veterans.
Please, go to Congress.gov and look up which bills are being introduced. Call your congressmen and tell them to support those that you feel would be beneficial. We the people have the power, but we have to communicate to our representatives what is that we want.
Instead of 20 billion for a wall, tell congress to fund 20 billion to our veterans assistance programs.