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Archive for May, 2014

Working Together Towards a Common Goal for Veterans

Around Memorial Day, there’s always a renewed focus on our service men and women and the sacrifices made by America’s veterans. The focus has been especially intense this year, as Congress and the media turn their attention to the recent controversies concerning the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. While blame has been directed at the VA, I’m reminded that it’s not just the government’s responsibility to help veterans in need, but everyone’s responsibility … public and private sectors, government, nonprofits and for-profit companies working together toward a common goal.

The men and women of America’s armed forces have fought for freedom in the world’s most dangerous places, from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Kandahar. When they return home after years spent in harm’s way, our veterans deserve a home of their own, the support of their loved ones and the ability to earn a decent living. Recent reports by the Veterans’ Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development show that the number of veterans seeking emergency shelter or transitional housing continues to shrink. While it’s certainly encouraging, this drop is overshadowed by a looming catastrophe down the road. Middle-aged vets are moving off the streets, but younger vets from the current wars are only just now starting to demonstrate the mental and addiction disabilities that ultimately lead to homelessness. Many of these young vets remain ignored because their injuries are on the inside, in the form of PTSD and other mental traumas, without any visible disfigurement.

Women veterans have also been under-assisted and at risk historically. They often feel uncomfortable approaching traditionally male-dominated veterans’ organizations for help in times of crisis and suffer silently in the shadows.

Services to veterans should begin before someone reaches a moment of crisis. Volunteers of America is one of many private service providers working on the front lines, in collaboration with government agencies like the VA and HUD, to bring veterans off the streets and provide the help they need. In this age of budget cuts, it is crucial that we protect funding for private organizations that help veterans overcome poverty and the disabilities of battle today instead of waiting for them to sink into homelessness.

We encounter a wealth of opportunity every day to make a difference … one life at a time. Volunteers of America weaves a safety net around veterans that helps return them whole into mainstream society. Thousands of soldiers will be coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and we must anticipate their needs. Now is the time to tackle this challenge. Learn more about Volunteers of America’s programs for veterans at www.voa.org/Veterans.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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