Throughout the history of this country in every military war, conflict, or skirmish, we have relied on the strength, energy, determination, and the inspiration of our young fighting men and woman in the armed forces. As an individual who has never served in the armed forces, I am left only to imagine how extremely difficult it is to serve in combat. The indescribable living conditions, the constant threat of danger, and ever present risk and potential for loss of life are things that I consider acutely unbearable, and unendurable by any human being for very long. Yet, the men and women of our armed forces have been known to endure this for weeks, months, and even years; with not so much as a whimper. Members of our armed forces ask very little, get a lot less, and yet are often times expected to give life limb or eyesight in the mission to protect this nation. The question we so often find ourselves confronting in this country is: How do we end up with so many brave young men and women veterans who were fortunate enough to make it back to the United States of America alive, only to find themselves homeless and jobless?
At the state and local government level it should be considered criminal to fail to identify and refer veterans in need of social services, mental health counseling, employment, and housing to the Office or Department of Veterans Affairs. At the federal level there should be legislative mandates requiring funding for what could be defined as Veteran Transition and Assistance Centers (VTAC).
A Veteran Transition and Assistance Center can be a newly constructed facility or campus, or better yet, it can be a refurbished, renovated and converted military installation. The purpose of the VTAC would be to provide temporary cost free basic services such as shelter – housing, meals, medical, and vocational assistance to homeless and unemployed veterans.
Over the past 23 years more than approximately 350 military installations have been closed as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. At least 145 of these installations are located within the United States (2: 2005 BRAC Closure Report). With the billions of dollars our nation has directed to other programs and objectives, there is no reason why our nation cannot partner with private sector corporations, or non- profits to help make the VTAC concept a reality for our homeless and jobless veterans.
The 1987 Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act is a great legislative tool that could help to support this effort, but I’m not sure it goes far enough to provide all that we need for today’s homeless and jobless veterans.
If you believe in this idea, or similar ideas, please contact your elected officials and let them know. It is so easy these days to make contact with them by e-mail, twitter or facebook. This is the least we can do for our veterans.
¹Defense Base Closure And Realignment Commission Report. 2005. 2 Vols. DoD.