Let’s Talk About Veterans

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

Income Limit


Income Limit

Aid & Attendance

Income Limit

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.


A Quick Review of the U.S. Refugee Policy

Today’s political landscape is, to say the least, a mess. Misinformation is rampant, social media is just one giant argument, and we have our government painting our media as liars and our media painting the government as liars. It’s difficult to sort through the truths and exaggerations.

In order to break up some of the bias information circulating, I thought to go out and look up some of the information for myself, like many of us should be doing.

A Refugee is anyone who is forced to leave their country due to war, persecution, and natural disaster. It has been determined that these people cannot return home, usually because they physically have no home to return to.

The United States Refugee process is  one of the most extreme and in depth processes in the world. All refugees must apply for refuge status through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, then, depending on the applicant, some of these will be transferred to the US State Department/ RSC Department.The application then goes through more than 16 different screening organizations as well as Homeland Security. These organizations screen for different things such as: past crimes, political affiliations, ties to gangs/rebel groups, etc. Higher risk applicants are subjected to even further checks, including a Security Advisory Opinion completed by the FBI.

Once the application has been through all of these different checks a medical test is administered and departments assess the situation to figure out which country would best serve the Refugee’s needs.

After this, the applicant must go through multiple in-person interviews in which they are asked extensive questions on travel intent, past actions, political ideologies and affiliations. The questions are reworded and asked over and over for hours and sometimes days, to attempt to get the applicant to slip up.

When approved, the applicant must attend a week-long orientation to introduce them to American culture and to understand further their ideologies on our society. Syrian Refugees are subjected to more in-depth training than other nationalities.

This process can take 18-24 months depending on the applicant. And roughly 72% of those are approved are women and children.

No other country in the world has such extensive screening.

No other country in the world was founded on freedom such as the United States is. No other country prides itself on being fearless in the face of oppression and being a safe haven for those who have been persecuted.

Since our laws were updated after the 2011 Terror Attack, only 2 people have been discovered to have made it through that shouldn’t have. In 2009 two men with terrorist ties were found to be living in Kentucky. At that time Obama implemented a temporary pause on Visa approvals for Iraq while the laws were updated to fix what allowed the two in. The policy was in response to discovering their existence, and also allowed intelligence agencies to further solidify databases by allowing the FBI to broaden their fingerprint bases (they lifted fingerprints from roadside bombs.)

Regardless of your political affiliation, it is important to know the facts. It is important to recognize people for people and to understand that America is already incredibly picky about who is allowed into our country. For good reason, too.

There is much more that can be said, and I think we all know where I stand on these issues. But at least take the time to be educated about the situation.