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Price reports: "Compounding the problems veterans face is the difficult job market, as studies indicate a strong correlation between joblessness and suicide. Currently, for younger veterans aged 18 to 24, who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, their unemployment rate is 30.4%, up from 18.4% a year earlier, compared to 15.3% for non veterans of the same age."

An American soldier grieves during a memorial service for a comrade killed by an explosive device in Afghanistan. (photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
An American soldier grieves during a memorial service for a comrade killed by an explosive device in Afghanistan. (photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Veterans: The War After the War

By Dick Price, LA Progressive

21 February 12


ow that the last American combat soldier has walked across the desert out of Iraq, and the Obama administration seems poised to end our military involvement in Afghanistan over howls from the military's brass and war machine manufacturers, the question returns: What now for the men and women who fought those wars in our name?

Older combat veterans know, and younger veterans and their loved ones are finding out, that the battle for how to live out the rest of your life begins after you've come home and taken off your uniform for the last time, with your wounds, memories of your fallen comrades, and the agitation that makes a full night's sleep difficult without drink or drug long after the last firefight.

So the veterans who gathered at the California Democratic Party's Veterans Caucus meeting last week in San Diego were eager to find out what California's political leaders might do about the alarming rates of homelessness, unemployment, suicide, and disability among the state's veterans.

LA's the Homeless Capital for Veterans, Too

"We have unprecedented levels of homeless veterans in California," acknowledged California State Assembly Speaker John Perez, who convened the Democratic Party's meeting and who represents an impoverished district near downtown Los Angeles. "My district has among the highest levels of homelessness in California."

Nationwide, an estimated 76,000 veterans are homeless on a given night, with 130,000 spending at least one night in a homeless shelter, a growing number of them women veterans, according to David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times:

"Veterans make up 8% of the U.S. population, but almost 16% of homeless adults. Half of all homeless veterans suffer from mental illness, and two-thirds are substance abusers."

In Los Angeles County, about 7,400 veterans are homeless, including "about 1,415 veterans considered to be chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for at least a year and suffer from a serious health issue, mental illness or addiction."

In San Diego County, home to a huge US Navy presence and just down the road from the Marine Corps Camp Pendleton, 35%, or 3,000, of the county's 8,500 homeless are veterans.

Speaker Perez announced that the Assembly has taken $2 million out of its operating budget to help returning veterans, especially those from the California National Guard, admittedly a drop in the bucket with so many veterans living on our streets.

"We're also integrating discussions about veteran homelessness and what to do about it in all our committees, not just the Veterans Committee," continued Perez, who had been invited by Caucus Chair Rick Reyes to keynote the meeting. "Those dealing with housing, education, and labor need to be part of the conversation, too."

Developing LA's National Home for Veterans

During the Veterans Caucus meeting, Joe Halper of the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club presented a resolution calling for the Department of Veterans Affairs to devote its 387-acre compound in West Los Angeles for its intended purpose of serving disabled veterans, which might then put a dent in the County's homeless veterans property. The resolution was overwhelming approved and quickly gathered endorsements by a number of elected Democrats representing West LA.

The resolution attempts to resolve an ongoing battle to return the sprawling hospital campus and renovate its dilapidated buildings for their originally intended use of rehabilitating and housing veterans, rather than being leased for use as "a public golf course, a college baseball stadium, a theatre and practice fields for the exclusive private Brentwood School."At one point, 4,000 veterans were housed at that facility, but are now barred from entering it.

A Veteran Commits Suicide Every 80 Minutes

"More Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than the 55,000 who were killed in combat," said Bob Filner, the 10-term congressman who capped the evening's meeting. "The same is true for today's two wars, which haven't even completely ended."

According to Filner, who is running to be San Diego's mayor, "The official count is more than 5,000 service members killed and more than 40,000 wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. But more than 1 million veterans have come to the VA for help - mostly with traumatic brain injuries. That's not a rounding error."

Compounding the problems veterans face is the difficult job market, as studies indicate a strong correlation between joblessness and suicide.

Currently, for younger veterans aged 18 to 24, who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, their unemployment rate is 30.4%, up from 18.4% a year earlier, compared to 15.3% for non veterans of the same age.

"When soldiers leave the military, they lose what service provides: purpose, focus, achievement, responsibility and ... 'belongingness,'" according to Peter D. Kramer, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University. "The workplace can be stressful, but especially for the mentally vulnerable, there is no substitute for what jobs offer in the way of structure, support and meaning."

To deal with these issues, Filner had advocated for a GI Bill for the 21st Century to get today's veterans into the workforce the way their fathers and grandfathers did after earlier wars.

"Millions of World War II veterans went to college on the GI Bill and millions more bought houses with VA loans. That created the middle class in America," Filner said. "Why can't we do the same thing for today's veterans?"

Filner also said that, if elected mayor, he would open a veterans' office right in city hall and advised the Veterans Affairs Department to grant relief to the 100,000 Vietnam veterans who have applied for Agent Orange care, rather than letting them die off, as seems to be the plan.

Pledging to focus the Veterans Caucus on jobs, housing, and homelessness this year, Caucus Chair Rick Reyes concluded the evening on a hopeful note.

But the outcome of the battle over the National Veterans Home in Brentwood will be a bellwether. If something good comes out of that controversy for veterans, we'll know the meeting was worth the drive down to San Diego. If not, we'll know it's just more politicos running up to the microphone boasting how much they "support the troops."

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+8 # WFO 2012-02-21 16:43
The 1st sentence starts with a lie - "Now that the last American combat soldier has walked across the desert out of Iraq, and the Obama administration seems poised to end our military involvement in Afghanistan..."

Iraq is destroyed, a million civilian dead, millions of refugees, the whole nation traumatized into abject misery. There is no significant resistance left to kill - they are done, finished, collapsed.

Here are a some of the bases in just Iraq - who do you think they are manned with, Boy Scouts? They are 1000's of private contractors, ie Blackwater, etc., 17,000 troops and 10's of 1000's close by in Kuwait, in addition to the largest embassy in the world, bigger than the Vatican. It's on to Iran for the United States of Israel, but Iraq is firmly under the boot heel.
+7 # WFO 2012-02-21 16:44
Bases from above post:

al-Faw Palace, part of the Victory Base Complex, headquarters of the United States Forces - Iraq in Baghdad
Camp Adder, also known as Ali Air Base and Tallil Air Base, located in Nasiriyah
Camp Ashraf, located near Khalis
Camp Banzai, located in Kadhimiya, formerly Camp Justice
Camp Bucca, located near Umm Qasr
Camp Cropper, part of the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad
Camp Dreamland, located in Fallujah, formally known as Camp Baharia
Camp Fallujah, located in Fallujah
Camp Liberty, part of the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad
Camp Nama, located in Baghdad, operations moved to LSA Anaconda
Camp Rustamiyah, located in Baghdad, formerly Camp Cuervo
Camp Slayer, part of the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad
Camp Striker, part of the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad
Camp Taji, located near Taji, Iraq
Camp Victory, primary component of the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad
COP Shocker, located in Zurbatiyah
COB Speicher, located near Tikrit, Iraq
FOB Abu Ghraib, located outside Baghdad
FOB Caldwell, located near Kir Kush
FOB Carpenter, located near Salman Pak
FOB Echo, located in ad-Diwaniyah
FOB Falcon, located near Baghdad
+7 # WFO 2012-02-21 16:44

FOB Grizzly, located near Al Khalis, formerly FOB Spartan, FOB Red Lion, and FOB Barbarian
FOB Hammer, located in Besmaya, formerly known as FOB Shakoosh,
FOB Iskandariyah, located on the grounds of the Musayyib Power Plant
FOB Kalsu, located in Iskandariya
FOB Loyalty, located in Baghdad
FOB Marez, located in Mosul
FOB MacKenzie, located in Samarra, formerly FOB Pacesetter
FOB Prosperity, located at as-Salam in Baghdad
FOB Q-West, located just outside Mosul
FOB Sykes, located near Tall'Afar
Logistics Base Seitz, part of the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad
Victory Base Complex (VBC), a cluster of U.S. military installations surrounding the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP).[1]
+2 # RLF 2012-02-22 07:07
Holy Crap! I knew they were there but the list! Holy Crap!
+10 # colvictoria 2012-02-21 22:29
WFO you are right on the mark. Iran is surrounded on all sides. The thought of a war on such an ancient civilization by a country a little more than 230 plus years is just unconscionable. All I can think is how many millions will die and about the nuclear fallout if nuclear warheads are used against Iran. The whole idea is just insane but as you point out it happened to Iraq and look what is left of that country.
To me it seems as if we humans have lost our sense of connectedness to each other. We are all one relation. We are all God's children but look what we do we divide on the basis of religion, tribalism, sectarianism, political factions etc. When we separate ourselves and make ourselves believe that we are right and that God is on our side the "other" becomes less than human. Even the children of the "other" become parasites which must be exterminated.
This is why incidents like Abu Grebe happen and why soldiers urinate on dead bodies. The so called "enemy" is not a human anymore but an object to be tortured, beheaded, quartered, waterboarded,ra ped,and set on fire.
+3 # Valleyboy 2012-02-22 05:14
Good post.

The elite manage to convince us time & time again that it's in our best interest to fight other people cos they're different, but if you look at who does the fighting it's always the poor against the poor.

It's all about the money honey.
-1 # RLF 2012-02-22 07:11
Problem is there are way too many of god's children...more to come!
+10 # Tippitc 2012-02-21 22:40
The way the government treats veterans is disgusting!! They are discarded like so much trash!! And don't give me any of that phony flag-waving patriotism - I will scream!! I used to fly a flag at my house, but not anymore - it is a symbol for something I have NO RESPECT for anymore. I ask "whatever gods may be" to give our veterans strength and some peace - oh - and a job would be good also.
-4 # RLF 2012-02-22 07:10
These guys signed up for WAR...did they think it was a video game. It sucks but I don't want to support these dummies for ever. Suck it up like the WWII vets did...and the vets from all of the other wars...we shouldn't need to baby sit ya'll.
+1 # Tippitc 2012-02-22 15:07
Maybe the government should start drafting people and then the same soldiers wouldn't have to serve two and three tours of duty. Yes - let's reinstitute the draft.
+3 # Progressive Patriot 2012-02-22 00:30
"What now for the men and women who fought those wars in our name?"

How about holding Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, and the rest of that administration, AND the war profiteers responsible, and making THEM pay for the lost years of every one of the soldiers who have been used in these unconstitutiona l, unnecessary wars.

Maybe the mainstream "news" media, especially Fox, should also pay.
+1 # cadan 2012-02-22 10:10
Boy you are right, Progressive Patriot.

The media practically created this war --- of course including Fox, but also the New York Judith Miller Times.
0 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-02-22 08:23
A GI bill for the 21st Century?
That would be nice, but dream on.
The original GI bill was to get US men to volunteer for the war and it got enforced by FDR and Truman who were cracking down on war profiteering.
Nowadays war profiteers run the show - why would they spend a dime on the stop-lossed verterans?
+4 # Hank 2012-02-22 10:02
One of my earliest memories is the day my father returned from the Pacific theater at the end of WWII.
He was in the Instrument Corp and I don't think he ever saw much direct action but he mention some things, such as the soldier who chopped off his trigger finger.
For several years after his return, my father suffered severe, debilitating headaches which were never diagnosed. Of course, battle fatigue was not mentioned.
My point is you cannot send a normal human being to war and not realize he/she will probably return with injuries that don't have visible scars. The fact that we are not doing more to help these Americans is unconscionable.
+2 # RMDC 2012-02-23 13:38
Thanks WFO. you are right. The line about last soldier out is just media PR. And the USG does not have to report on the location of anyone Special Forces, so we don't know how many of them are in Iraq still. And if a soldier is only deployed somewhere for less than 90 days, the Pentagon does not have to say he was ever there.

The Pentagon is a five sided lie factory. The lies come out in all directions.

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