ONE HUNDRED THIRTY ONE THOUSAND. That number comes from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. 131,000 of our nations 24 million Veterans are homeless according to the DVA. I'm sitting here shaking my head in disbelief. Not because there are homeless Veterans. I know there are homeless Veterans. I see them all the time. They are sleeping in tent cities all over Florida. They are at the Salvation when I used to go to Ocala back when I was still being represented by the DAV (shudder). They are on the side of the road begging for money. They are sleeping on benches, under viaducts, on the beaches.
I don't believe it. I think that number is way too low. I think the DVA is hiding the real number. There are thousands upon thousands of homeless Veterans who don't know they are entitled to benefits. I met one last week. Does the DVA know about her? Absolutely not. I gave her my name and my phone number. I told her I would help her. 131,001. Bullshit. That's just one Veteran. She was living in a campgrounds. She had enough money to stay there for two weeks. Hot showers. Other Veterans in the campgrounds were helping with food for her and her dog. I talked to the GM of the campgrounds to give her a Veterans discount that she didn't know she was entitled to. Hopefully they will refund some of the money that she paid for her campsite.
Wow... talk about odd coincidence ... as I was writing the last paragraph I received a text message from another Veteran friend of mine. I had reached out to her to try to get help for the young Veteran I met last week. You see, there is something unique about the young woman I met last week. She is a male to female transgender. She is very early in her transition. Do you think the VA wants anything to do with her? We can't even get the VA to recognize that the LGBT Community has specific needs that need to be addressed. Most of us are not even "out" to our health care facilitators. Anyway ... the friend I reached out to sent me a message to call "Maddie." I called Maddie and she wanted to thank me. Because I reached out to my friend, Maddie might have found a place to live, something she can afford on her social security income of $800 a month. One Veteran reaching out to another. Back to 131,000. According to the DVA. Oh wait, the DVA didn't know about Maddie.
There is an organization trying to get the DVA to recognize the LGBT Community. Right now I am the only member in the Florida Chapter. Other Chapters around the Country have had great success in getting VA Hospitals to open up LGBT Support Groups staffed by VA Psychologists. Here in Florida, I haven't had much luck. I was told that it's not possible when I spoke to the staff psychologists at my VA Hospital. I was told that it's "reverse discrimination." I was told they can't have "separate groups" based on gender, religion, etc. Other VA Hospitals can do it. Why not here in Florida? If you are interested in checking out the organization I'm talking about it's called Vets Do Ask Do Tell.
This is the Mission Statement of Vets Do Ask Do Tell:
The overall mission of the Vets Do Ask Do Tell, LLC is to bring awareness to and educate Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender veterans of the Veterans Administration programs that are targeted to their specific needs. To consolidate information important to these veterans and give National awareness and education about programs that may not be known by all LGBT veterans. To provide educational resources that may be needed to pursue benefits they are entitled to.
The best way to access their website is to go to this page. If you're in Florida and you'd like to join me you can do so through the website. It's lonely being the Chapter Commander with no one in my Chapter.
I've jumped all over the place in this blog. I know that. I'm pissed, Invisible Reader. 131,000 homeless Veterans. Bullshit. That number is much higher and we all know it. The DVA knows it. Supposedly "they" are walking the streets, going into the tent cities, trying to "recruit" these Veterans, teaching them, telling them about their benefits, trying to help them. But tell me this. They feel betrayed. They feel used and abused. They don't trust the system. They don't trust anyone but their brothers and sisters they served with. Why should they trust these strangers coming into their camps? Why should they trust the very system that used them and then turned its collective back on them? Promises of money? Promises of a roof over their head? Where? In overcrowded homeless shelters? In the new Veterans shelters they are building? There isn't near enough room for all the Vets living on the streets.
Every day, every hour, every minute another Vet is homeless. Veterans are losing their homes because the VA is so backlogged it's taking forever to process our claims. The new GI Bill is a bust. Promises of money is a friggin' joke. Veterans are dying before claims and appeals are ever processed. And we should trust the DVA why? 131,000 homeless Veterans. Bullshit.
Until the next time ...