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Nirek On May - 1 - 2014

The way we treat our veterans is a disgrace!

“On any given night in 2009, nearly 76,000 U.S. veterans were homeless, while at least 136,000 veterans spent at least one night that year in a homeless shelter.” This quote is from the report at the link below. That was in 2009. How many are there now?


Down the street from my home about a quarter mile there is the Veterans Home, this is a place that homeless veterans can stay for as long as needed until they get on their feet. I supported it by voting to allow it to open. I went to the open house when it opened. It is a nice place right next to the high school. The vets volunteer at the local food shelf, as crossing guards when school starts and ends, and doing odd jobs to help the towns residents.  There are many reasons for their situation. Lack of work, drug and or alcohol addiction, and many other reasons.

Street Sleeper 2 by David Shankbone

I was lucky when I returned from Vietnam I had my folks to help me get on my feet.

It is a disgrace that we ask these people to fight and then when they get back to America they are abandoned.  This is one of my passions, caring for the veterans of America. Here in Vermont we don’t have a large population (600,000) and we don’t have many homeless vets. One is too many though. “Those who have served this nation as veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope,” said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, in announcing the 2009 plan. “In the past, VA focused largely on getting homeless veterans off the streets. Our five-year plan aims also at preventing them from ever ending up homeless.”

The Veterans Administration has done some work to get a handle on the problem. Senator Sanders has done a lot. But still we have thousands of homeless veterans. More has to be done , we owe them more for their service. After all, we asked them to fight our wars. So we ought to take care of them when they return home. Many of the initiatives to make the veterans benefits easier have been blocked by the (passionate) GOP!

I saw an episode of NCIS that brought this issue to light just last night.  Too many vets are homeless and too many also are committing suicide because they can’t get the help they deserve.

It gets personal with me because I waited over six months to get a small increase in my payments for  diabetes caused by Agent Orange.

Written by Nirek

Proud progressive Vietnam Vet against WAR! Can't stomach chickenhawks.

38 Responses so far.

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  1. Aquarius 1027 says:

    It is tragic that so many veterans do not receive the help they need once back home in the USA. That’s the UNITED States of America. Congress is not united and the right wing refuses to pass legislation to assist veterans. This needs be a part of the platform for every Democrat in the November elections.

    The GOP should be held accountable for their track record of inaction when Democrats are on the campaign trail. As you mentioned Nirek, multiple attempts have been made to pass a Veterans Jobs/Benefits bill in Congress:

    -- November 21, 2011: -- Passed Congress, signed by President Obama
    -- September 19, 2012: -- OBSTRUCTED by GOP
    -- May 27, 2103: -- OBSTRUCTED by GOP
    -- February 27, 2014: -- OBSTRUCTED by GOP

    For those veterans waiting and waiting to receive help, this lack of legislation for two and a half years is indeed a disgrace and beyond belief. Yet the indisputable facts are there in the Congressional records. There is NO justification for this failure to act, the GOP chose to put party first before country.

    Thank you, Nirek, for sharing your experiences. After sending our young men and women in harm’s way, Congress should provide for the care they need after returning. Instead, the GOP pontificate about even more military interventions. -- The only way to change this is to VOTE these obstructionists out of office.

    • Nirek says:

      Aquarius, you are absolutely right about voting the GOP out of office. Actually you’re right about everything. The Democrats need to campaign on the RW’s lack of support for vets, too.

  2. Nirek says:

    My Senator is on the job, he makes more sense than any other politician I have heard.

  3. kesmarn says:

    Nirek, thank you so much for taking a look at this really tragic situation. There was an amazing PBS Frontline documentary that aired recently which took a look as some of the inappropriate ways that prisons are being used in the U.S. And one of those uses is as housing for troubled military veterans.

    One veteran in particular was profiled and his story was heart-wrenching. He had served in Viet Nam and was haunted by guilt over several incidents of violence that he’d been involved in. When he was discharged, he self-medicated with drugs and alcohol and went into a downward spiral — ending up with repeated cycles of incarceration. Prison was hardly the place where this (actually very intelligent and sensitive man) was going to get what he needed, but not much else was available. The producers followed him on his release and subsequent involvement with a supportive group of fellow vets who helped get him back on track.

    It’s a fairly long documentary, but so much worth the time to watch.


    Thanks again, Nirek, for all your valuable contributions to the Planet!

  4. Unca Adverse says:


    No one has mentioned the most recent VA scandal . . .

    The same cowardly neofascist chickenhawks in our government who are so quick to incite illegal wars of aggression, have a total callous disregard for funding our Veterans Administration; the other end of their brutal hamburger machine.
    I recently have made an appointment to see my doctor at our local Reno VA, and must wait three months to do so . . .
    -- Ne Desit Virtus --

    • Nirek says:

      Unca, I agree that the “chickenhawks” are the problem.
      We could probably do an article about the damage that “chickenhawks” have done. It runs into the trillions of dollars and thousands of lives affected.

      Peace should be our goal.

    • Unca, do you mind me asking what the appointment is for? I know that’s a little personal, but many times the appointment times are set according to degree of health risk. If your condition is more immediate, you can do a walk-in, but you may have to wait several hours before being seen and it won’t be your primary care doc.

      • Unca Adverse says:


        My appointment was for a routine eight month checkup which was requisite that I make myself, but actually I had to wait well over two months before I was even allowed to make the appointment. Now I will have waited well over twelve months since the last time I saw my VA assigned Cardiologist.

        • Yeah, they can bog you down on the routine appointments. After my appointments, they tell me that they’ll send a letter telling me to make an appointment. They usually send that letter about 2 to 2 to 2 1/2 months later. Consider though, this happens also in private medicine.

          It can be frustrating, but my basic point was that if you are sick, they will treat you on a walk-in basis.

          • Unca Adverse says:

            I do not like to talk about myself.
            I do not disparage VA doctors nor the VA.
            VA Healthcare is a wonderful single payer service and should be available to ALL American citizens!
            I emphatically reemphasize that the only problem with the VA is extreme underfunding, caused by those vile inhuman beings whose positions in our very Federal Government have been BOUGHT & PAID FOR by the moneyed might of various nefarious mega-rich forces . . .
            What they care about our returning veterans could easily pass through the eye of a very small needle.

  5. Nirek says:

    The damage that WAR does to the countries, their people, and those who fight is awful and devastating. The veterans may not have physical injuries but they are damaged. That damage is dealt with by vets in different ways. Some crawl into a bottle and drink themselves to death. Some self medicate and get addicted to the drug of choice. Some have family and friends who help them cope with the memories.

    I’m one of the lucky ones who had help from family and friends. I’m still damaged, but I cope.
    When I decided to write the article I had just seen a show, NCIS on CBS. They were dealing with homeless vets and I could not keep the tears from flowing.

    To me it is a disgrace that we have any homeless veterans.


  6. SallyT says:

    Nirek, thank you for keeping attention on this matter. I love Bernie Sanders and he is so passionate when he talks about the veterans.

    For these veterans the war is never over and most of them started when very young. And, it irritates me to no end when those people in Congress want us to go into more battles.

    Thank you for your service, Nirek. And, I am so glad that you had your family to help you when you came home.

    • Nirek says:

      Sally, thanks for responding. My family had some understanding that others may not have had. My Dad was a career soldier. WWII and Korean war veteran as well/ He had a lot of wisdom and common sense.

  7. choicelady says:

    On March 15, 2014, Jule Preston Bleak, a Vietnam vet, died in the alley around the corner from my house. He was a hardworking man all his life -- left the military and worked the oil rigs until his best friend was cut in half in a horrific rig accident. He came back to Sacramento where he’d grown up, hoping to find solace, but he found only disability, homelessness, dementia, and finally death.

    I can’t fault the VA -- he did not have a perfect discharge. I CAN fault the city of Sacramento for doing NOTHING to help him. In his final year he was losing it mentally, and he became increasingly unable to care for himself despite me, the other homeless people who tried to help. Where were our services?

    When he died I had to identify him because I was the only one with his SSN and full information. He had lost his ID months earlier, who knows how or where. Where were the police getting him linked with Adult Protective Services? They never even tried. They didn’t hassle him too much, but they also did not help.

    I take care of about 20 homeless people 19 of them vets. I feed them, hire them to do yard work, talk to them on my porch. They are my neighbors even if they don’t have addresses. Most of my money goes to them, one way or the other, because without me they have nothing. Some work -- our neighborhood is very clean thanks to their recycling and yard work. Others are no longer able -- they are ‘worn out workers’ who would qualify for early Social Security IF someone would help them. I do what I can. It’s not enough.

    The ones who absolutely kill me are women. Not a one of them has NOT been raped. Not one. Others are occasionally beaten by men they thought they could trust -- but couldn’t. Homelessness is both a community of good people and a world of desperate uncertainty. When they can band together they do. They are such vulnerable souls when they cannot.

    We have very supportive people in the neighborhood. We also have scumbags whose ‘hobby’ is calling the police 15-20 times a day to make some phony complaint about the homeless people. One of our local lawyers is helping to gather complaints against the police for taking people’s belongings -- totally illegal -- but it’s always and forever an uphill fight for basic humanity.

    And these are the men and women of Vietnam, of the Gulf wars, of Afghanistan. These are the people we sent to protect our ‘freedoms’ and then kicked in the fucking teeth when they returned.

    I love them, warts and all. They are good people.

    I miss Preston. For all his dementia he was a good soul. My one solace is that his boon companion, “Puppy” his Australian herder, was rescued by another homeless guy who has taken Preston’s place in my life. Pat is a great guy, superbly caring of Puppy who loves him as she once loved Preston, and he has also become a friend. Thank God he has VA health services -- I take him every two weeks then take Puppy to work with me until I can pick Pat up. Having VA means Pat is actually in good shape, capable of taking care of himself far better than Preston could. That alone makes a huge difference -- but where are the other services he ought to have?

    America has abandoned so many populations of people I think there no longer is any way to call ANY of them a ‘special interest’. We are just people, and those especially who were called out to help protect us deserve so much they are not remotely getting it’s criminal. I do what I can for my little corner of the universe. It’s not nearly enough.

    • Nirek says:

      CL, you touched my heart, gently.
      For all that you do to help my “brothers”, thank you!
      I wish you had collaborated with me on this article. You are so passionate about the homeless.

      • choicelady says:

        Oh Nirek -- your story is so powerful and essential! It’s what made me think to tell this one.

        I’ve worked with these folks off and on, but it wasn’t until Preston so clearly needed help that I got as involved as I now am. My husband does the same. He’s taking one of the men to AA and is the support point for another (the NON veteran in our midst) who is emotionally immature and in deep need of critical care he refused to take. He needs dialysis and won’t do it. He simply cannot be confined anywhere -- he hates it. The hospital is no damned help -- just dumped him because he wasn’t compliant even though they are mandated to find him shelter. So now he wanders, sickening every day, and we don’t think he has much time. His on-the-street best friend, a vet who is some years older and infinitely wiser, is torn up about his own inability to get Andy to go back. Finally we all just had to let go of control and do whatever we can to be the friends Andy needs without guilt at our inability to make him do what will save his life.

        Dealing with homeless people who have mental and emotional disabilities really requires disengagement from guilt even as the compassion remains. It does require a firm direction to agencies and institutions that are not living up to their responsibilities, but respect for people’s autonomy means accepting who they are, what they want EVEN when we can see it’s so dangerous.

        None of this is going to end well unless we get institutional support. That’s what we’re working on -- creating safe space for those who can handle it. And I am adamant that it must allow both couples and pets because the worst thing we do to people is disregard their love and need for companionship. Regulating the poor is a lousy way to go. So keep us in your thoughts as we try to find a solution for at least some. They all need and want so few things. There is no excuse for not providing that -- especially to our veterans.

    • Kalima says:

      Wonderful comment cl. Reading it brought tears of anger, frustration and joy for your kindness and understanding. As one human being to another, thank you for caring, you have made a huge difference in so many lives.

      No one person can ever feel they have done enough. It takes a town, a city, a state and the country with a collective awareness of a problem to help make those changes to make the world a fair and better place for everyone. You have done more than your share.

      • choicelady says:

        We are organizing again -- we’ve tried before -- to bring some coherence from this complete disregard. The mayor, former NBA player Kevin Johnson, is a total asshole who pretends he cares but does NOTHING. The city council just reduced the requirement for really affordable housing within projects, so that sucks. The social services have all been cut by good Jesuit Jerry Brown -- the state budget is lush finally, but nothing will be spent on the people he sacrificed in the past years.

        The homeless are drek to policy makers. But they are real people with real stories, and ALL of them, at one time or another, worked hard but could not beat the system that shredded them. When they are also vets, that is a shame of a nation. We’ve done this since 1776 -- ignored those who fought for us -- and apparently continue that trend. The only generation that ever got due help was those who fought in WW II, but the politicians who cared are long dead themselves. Now we abandon them to the alleys to die. I, as a citizen, am screaming that this has got to stop. NO MORE taking of lives in war and taking them again in peace.

        • Nirek says:

          CL, thanks for carrying the torch for the homeless. I’m sure there are many more there than here in Vermont. We have such a small population compared to yours.

          You should run for office.
          Bernie Sanders is my Senator and he is a strong voice for our cause.

        • Kalima says:

          Knowing you a little here from your comments and endless passion for what is right and just, you will continue the fight and make the necessary noise to get their attention one way or another. As you say, this has to stop.

          • choicelady says:

            No Kalima -- we won’t quit. But individuals cannot do this alone. It takes a village! I do know that the fighting attorney is amazing -- I’ve worked with him and his wife on many issues -- is probably the best hope we have. He’s successfully sued the city for over $1.5 million to compensate the homeless folks who’ve lost their goods. And yet -- it continues. They promise now people can get their things back. Ducky -- they have no ID and the storage area is miles away. Cute. Just harass a homeless guy or gal for fun is all it seems to be about. I expect better from our police. LOTS better. We will NOT back down, nope.

  8. Kalima says:

    Being a veteran yourself, it must hit you very hard to see how the country (RW politicians) are treating your veterans.

    Where are all the charitable mega-rich who thought war was such a good thing, and cheered with every bomb dropped, and then closed their eyes and ears to the growing number of casualties, while the Bush government hid the mounting coffins of the dead returning from battle. The disabled returning to a life of uncertainty, believing that their country would take care of them when they returned were swept under the rug.

    Then there are the very rich who were against war, it doesn’t mean you ignore the many thousands who fought for their country in one.

    In Oklahoma they did this, link below. In some southern states they are stopping the Church from helping the poor and homeless. The Church has always helped the needy, what part of Jesus’s teachings say otherwise?

    In the U.K. it was the same. Hundreds of injured vets were dismissed from the military on their return, and because of the increasing cuts to anything this conservative government can cut, many lost their chance of benefits too.

    Who are these heathens and why do they remain in power? They are the same people who vote in Congress or Parliament against doing anything to help the veterans. They are an indelible stain on our nations and must be removed.

    Thanks for the passion you show for this issue. I can’t understand the backlog for so long. Surely with something as urgent as this they should be able to get the funding for more staff to deal with it.

    Thought I would include these two articles. One is about heartfelt kindness, the other must have been planned by the Devil himself.


    Veteran offers up his burial plot so a lesbian couple can rest in peace



    Louisiana About To Make It Illegal For Homeless People To Beg For Money


    • jjgravitas says:

      Kalima, I grew up in Louisiana, left when I was 14. Louisiana has a history of corrupt politics, but nothing compares to Louisiana’s current standard of excellence: persecuting veterans. My father fought in WWII. When he returned, he went to college on the GI Bill and became an engineer. Back then, we respected our veterans. When Bush II sent us to war, my thought was “ok, show us what you stand for.” And the GOP has shown us what they stand for. I’m not a religious man, but there is a Bible story that relates directly to this: The Golden Calf. In this story, the people put their wealth together and melted it down to build a golden calf which they then worshipped as a deity, in place of God, which made God very angry. I don’t remember what God did, but that’s not important. Today you might associate the results of their actions with Karma. The GOP now worship wealth and the wealthy above all else. The GOP’s persecution of veterans and the poor will come back to bite them, and it will bite hard. Karma can be a real bitch, and the GOP are gonna experience it, although I am quite sure they will not understand it.
      Apologies if you have a problem with the word “bitch”.

      Enjoy your weekend.

      • Nirek says:

        JJ, you have passion just as I do! I agree with you , the GOP has changed since WWII ended and Ike was POTUS, the GOP has gone from caring about the people to caring about money!

        Peace, my friend.
        Lets get out there and vote and bring a friend to vote, too.

      • Kalima says:

        Hello jjgravitas, then it must pain you to see what is going on in the South.

        Your description of the story of The Golden Calf is spot on. I don’t read the bible much but I think that God did not lead the Israelites himself through the desert, he sent an angel instead, and that was their punishment.

        The only way to rid your country of this cancerous evil, is to vote them out of power. It’s the voters who have the upper hand, and they must use it.

        Thanks, I hope you have a peaceful weekend too.

        No I’m not offended by the word “bitch”, I swear like a sailor myself when I get really angry. :)

    • Nirek says:

      Kalima, I am passionate about several things but none more than caring for our fellow human beings. Especially those who served our country under the worst conditions. War is the worst condition there is.

      Making laws that only hurt the homeless is despicable !

  9. AdLib says:

    Nirek, don’t know if you saw this story, about the Phoenix VA Hospital being accused of creating a secret waiting list that they used to hide how long they would keep Vets from being treated, keeping them on the secret list until they could put them on the official list where they would have a short waiting period to be seen.

    Official inquiries begin for Phoenix VA hospital with alleged ‘secret waiting list’


    It’s outrageous that we have such callous politicians who brag about supporting our troops and how tough they are by sending them to wars but when they come back, they couldn’t be bothered with them. That attitude is reflected in allegations like this.

  10. Nirek, there are definitely problems faced by all too many veterans. As much as the VA tries to help, sometimes they are just bagged down by their own system. The VA has improved greatly over the last 40 years, but further improvements are still needed.

    I think over 40% of VA workers are veterans themselves. They understand, but often times their hands are tied by a system that is not uniform throughout the country.

    One really big problem with homeless vets and those poor souls who commit suicide is that so many of them don’t seek treatment. They learn, in the service, that seeking psychiatric help is a show or weakness. The military doesn’t directly instill this in our troops, but during their time in, this is the general message they get. I’m sure you well know what I’m referring to.

    Many do seek treatment, but are easily put off by the way some VA doctors approach treatment. The docs are usually compassionate, but some methods may lead some vets to think that they are being wrongly diagnosed, and they leave, never to come back. This happened to me, more than once. My problem was mainly alcoholism and homelessness, but I also suffer from PTSD and bi-polar disorder. The PTSD is not service connected, but due to several traumatic experiences in civilian life.

    I have to say, that I did keep coming back, because I wanted to live, rather than take a swan dive off of a tall building (which I almost did one night). The VA has never turned me away and through the years, I think they have actually saved my life. They were there when I had no one else to turn to.

    I understand the point of your post, and I don’t totally disagree. I also think the military has to do more for guys who are short timers and facing civilian life. Programs that would help them more in adjusting to civilian life.

    • Nirek says:

      KT, I think we are on the same page. I find fault in the congress that does nothing to help the very same people they asked to serve in their WARS! The Democrats have tried to get improvements in the VA and the GOPers have filibustered all efforts. The VA does a good job with what they have to work with.

  11. Parsifals says:

    A really important issue that few address. Rachel Maddow appears to do that, but she is one voice.

    When I lived in NYC many Veterans went homeless. When I lived in Vermont, it appeared many of the Vietnam Vets I met had homes but not much else (near Brattleboro).

    What do we do about it? Can we change the government, or the VA?

    I wish we could! I wish we would!

    My contribution has been funds, not much, but what I can afford.

    • Nirek says:

      The best thing we all can do is VOTE,Parsifals. Vote for the people who will help the VA do its job, NOT for those who will only disrupt.

      Thank you for the response and for your contributions.


    On a daily basis, I feed 5 of them, living behind gas stations or close to the Post Office.I do support also, several organizations who help paralyzed vets.WWP too.But this week, my boss watched me right a check for the latter and told me to be careful, because many of those orgs, the CEO’s get the most of money whilst so little actually go to benefit those so deeply hurt by the fanatical right wingers hawks, so in love with ANY war -- as long as it doesn’t involve sending THEIR KIDS..Thank you Nirek…I already posted it to my FB and G+ and will be spreading this one too on several blogs.Big hug and thanks so much!

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