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If you think homelessness among veterans is unacceptable, you’re not alone. Obama has pledged to establish a national “zero tolerance policy” for homelessness among veterans. In his proposed budget, he took a bold step towards that goal by proposing a 10 percent increase for Veterans Affairs. But will increasing government spending to match our “support our troops” rhetoric ultimately end veteran homelessness?
It’s no mystery that veterans are disproportionately represented among the homeless population. During good economic times, one in four people without a roof wore the uniform (thanks to the recession, that number is probably a bit lower today). While many of these homeless vets served in Vietnam, a growing number of vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are winding up in shelters and on the streets.
Why, you ask? The answer, of course, is where our government chooses to direct funding (or not direct funding, as is the case here). During the Bush years, Veterans Affairs (VA) was wholly undersupported by the Bush administration. Suffering through astronomical budget shortfalls and lowball estimates that failed to take into account the costs of treating vets returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
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