• Jerry Plantz: Our veterans deserve better

  • They are not hard to find.

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  • They are not hard to find.
    They are under bridges and overpasses. You will often find them standing at the exit of Van Brunt Boulevard off Interstate 70 that leads to the VA Hospital.
    I often see them at the underpass at the junction of Missouri 210 and Interstate 435. One unexpectedly showed up at the AMVETS Christmas party at its downtown Kansas City location.
    They are the homeless veterans from the Iraq-Afghanistan wars, and it is heartrending. Now news from the Department of Veterans Affairs that the number of homeless Iraq, Afghan veterans has doubled. As of Oct. 1, 26,531 of our nation’s finest were living on the streets across America. That’s an increase of 10,500 since 2010. Some 1,800 from greater Kansas City are included in that number. Homeless vets in Missouri increased in the past 12 months by 1,200, topping out at 10,237.
    It is estimated that up to 3.5 million Americans are homeless, of whom 1.5 million are children. About 40 percent of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34 percent of the general adult male population, according to research on veterans by the National Coalition for Homeless.
    On any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless. Many risk losing their homes, and many are receiving federal vouchers to pay rent. The main reasons cited by the VA are the effects of the two wars, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a slow economic recovery.
    DS Wright, a blogger for Firedoglake, writes, “One of the Vietnam War’s legacies was a generation of homeless veterans .... It seems America will have another generation of homeless veterans thanks to our adventures and misadventures overseas.”
    A major complaint of the homeless is the long delay in processing their claims. The VA is aware of the delays and has initiated a “fast track” procedure for the most complicated cases at all of its 56 regional offices. It expects to eliminate its backlog by 2015.
    The VA has more than 884,000 claims pending, with an average waiting list of at least 125 days. And next year, thousands more will be coming home from Afghanistan.
    If you know a veteran who is homeless or at risk of homelessness, contact VA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) to access free VA services.
    I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.
    A happy new year everyone!
    Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at www.Jerryplantz.com. Reach him at jerryplantz@msn.com.

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