Will The VA’s Current Policies Create More Homelessness?

Posted: July 29, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Government, Homelessness, Housing, Money, Politics, Veterans

Since the day that President Obama took his Oath of Office earlier this year, there have been a number of pieces of major legislation which have been passed in a hastily reckless manner by Congress.

The argument used by the Administration and by high ranking members of both the House and the Senate for such quick passage, has been along the lines of: "We must pass this bill now. If we wait, it will be too late and things will get worse."

While I appreciate their recognizing that there is indeed an urgent need to try and bolster our struggling economy, I also am quite familiar with the old adage that "Haste makes waste."  

So eager were members of Congress to pass the so-called "Stimulus" and "Bail Out" bills that it’s highly unlikely that any one Congressperson or Senator read through them completely. As a result, when those bills went to the floor to be voted on, then to the Presidents’ desk for his signature, no one caught any of the many "loopholes" which ultimately allowed a number of Wall Street firms to hand out huge, multi-million dollar compensation packages to some of their top level executives.

And once again, it was the American people who footed the bill.

There is one specific group of American’s who have "footed the bill" but seem to continually get the proverbial short end of the stick: Veterans.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of American Veterans who experience homelessness each year.

Despite, the Department of Veterans Affairs having an overall budget in excess of $91 billion for FY 2009 and a proposed $112.8 billion budget for FY 2010, the VA is miserably failing at adequately addressing the needs of our nation’s Veterans. And, due to a lack of clear and well-thought out bureaucratic policies, many Veterans find themselves in worsening social and medical conditions. Some Veterans even find themselves being pushed into homelessness because of VA policies.

This past Monday evening, I read a news report from WPTV TV-5 in Florida about one such Veteran who potentially faces becoming homeless because of VA policies currently in place.

Glenn Scriber, a 55-year old Navy Veteran is consigned to a wheelchair because of Muscular Dystrophy. His condition makes if difficult for him to find any type of employment.

In addition to receiving Society Security Disability, Mr. Scriber also receives a $561 month pension through VA.

However, in March of last year, Mr. Scriber was hit by a truck.

The incident caused him broken bones to his legs and face. His wheel chair was completely destroyed. And, his dog was also badly injured.

In the end, Mr. Scriber received a $10,000 settlement from the truck drivers’ insurance company for his "pain and suffering."

Unfortunately, VA policies being the way they are, only added to his "pain and suffering."

The Department of Veterans Affairs viewed the settlement check as "income" and has suspended his pension for one year.

Struggling to pay his mortgage, Mr. Scriber fears that he may end up homeless because of the VA’s policy. And, try though he would, he has been unable to get his pension re-instated so far.

Even one of Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings’ staff members, Dan Liftman, tried calling and intervening with the VA on Mr. Scriber’s behalf.

Of his contact with the VA, Mr. Liftman said,

"I said how is the man supposed to pay his medical bills and she said ‘I’m sorry but that’s the way the law is written’ "

It seems to me morally repugnant that a federal agency which is charged with providing our nation’s Veterans "quality care and services" has failed to live up to its responsibilities.

The net effect of the VA’s skewed policies may well mean one more American Veteran who may be living on the streets – where he might remain for years to come, or even perhaps for the rest of his life.

In one of his recent posts, Sleepless In Long Beach, Joel John Roberts – over at the LA’s Homeless Blog – wrote about having recently been part of a week long survey to determine the needs of the homeless in his community.

With regards to the homeless Veterans in his area, Mr. Roberts said:

"I can’t sleep because I keep thinking how we can house them. The 76 people who are veterans should be housed immediately by the federal Veterans Administration. If they fought for our country, we should fight for their housing."

I couldn’t agree more.

Perhaps if the President, members of Congress, and all of the folks over at the Department of Veterans Affairs truly adopted a similar ideology, no American Veteran would be forced to live their lives on the streets of our nation.

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