Every year high school seniors analyze their options for a successful future, with enlistment within the United States military as a viable option for a number of reasons. While some high school seniors decide to proceed straight to college, millions of graduates decide to take an oath to protect this country from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Many veterans come home to face yet another enemy. That enemy is homelessness, which is spiraling dangerously out of control. According to “The State of Homelessness in America 2014,” the number of homeless veterans is increasing at the rate of 37 percent across the nation from Wyoming to Washington, D.C. The lack of employment opportunities within a challenging business climate has become a formidable opponent of the contemporary veteran.
No veteran should return home to endure the grips of extreme unemployment and homelessness. Moreover, the contemporary veteran is returning from multiple tours to the combat zone. Experiencing prolonged periods of stress and exiting active duty lacking the necessary adaptive resources complicate community transition.
As a combat veteran, I have experienced an extraordinary amount of stress,
trauma and homelessness in an attempt to navigate back into a community that did not understand the special transitional needs of veterans. Moreover, according to Veteran Inc., more than 800,000 veterans will be homeless at some point annually, and 300,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets and in shelters throughout the United States.
HR 474 is moving through Congress now. The bill will literally save the lives of veterans and prevent a significant social impact to communities in the form of increased crime rates, domestic violence incidents and emergency room visits. Often many veteran health care and mental health issues go undiagnosed, adding to the complexity of reintegration and living a self-determinant life. As a result of serving in combat, many veterans suffer with a multifaceted dynamic of mental health and health care challenges. HR 474 is designed to help veterans with these issues.
HR 474 is a bill to amend Title 38 to extend the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for another five years. This bill would provide funding for organizations that assist homeless veterans with housing, employment and health care needs. Veteran homelessness is not an unconquerable foe and can be effectively addressed with the empathetic and logical legislative power of HR 474. Organizations such as Volunteers of America and Passage Home would directly benefit from HR 474. I have worked with these organizations effectively helping veterans obtain suitable housing, employment, health care and mental health services.
During his second inaugural speech, President Lincoln placed an extraordinary emphasis on the government’s obligation to assist veterans with community reintegration with these words: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” Assisting veterans with transition needs has been the philosophy of Veteran Affairs since 1959.
The probability of this bill passing both houses by a two-thirds vote is very low. However, the survival of HR 474 exists within the heart and minds of the people. The citizens of the United States must collectively band together in the spirit of honoring the commitment of the brave men and women who have demonstrated the highest form of duty and loyalty to the United States.
Markanthony Taylor of Garner is the Disabled Veterans Outreach program specialist for the N.C. Department of Commerce.