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United States. Congress. House. Committee on Veter.

Viewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 online

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use the police, courts, and prisons to "treat" it.

Neglected communicable diseases such as tuberculosis impose ever increasing public
health risks and costs. Veterans with PTSD are more than five times as likely to be homeless
and vagrant than demographically similar civilian controls,' thus more effective in spreading



^ This is a commonly used figure, but the data are very poor on this subject Incarcerated Vietnam veterans in
particular are reluctant to disclose their military records to correctional officials

^ NWRS Vn-20-1, -2 36 8% of veterans with PTSD self-reported six or more violent acts in the preceding year
compared to 1 1 5% of demographically similar civilian controls A'WR5 citations are to the separately
published volume of Tables of Findings and Techmcal Appendices, New York, Brunner/Mazel, 1990

** NWRS VII-21-1, -2 34% of veterans with PTSD self-reported 2 or more arrests, and 1 1.5% reported

conviction for a felony The corresponding percentages for demographically sirmlar civihan controls were
6 8% and 4 9%

5 NWRS VII-18-1, -2



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Veterans Affairs Committee May 4. 1994. Jonathan Shay. M D , Ph D PAGE 9

communicable diseases. Untreated substance abuse endangers both public health and public
safety.

I am not so naive as to think that every combat veteran with bad paper "deserves" an
Honorable Discharge. But this is the point of my testimony - that the terror, grief, rage, and
betrayals of prolonged, heavy combat can ruin good character. The damaged character of some
combat veterans is a war injury. We are neither just, nor serve our own best interests when we
deny these veterans treatment to heal these damages in their character.

To deny a/jy combat veteran the physical and mental health services of the VA is not only
unjust, it is self-defeating. It is bad public policy. Let's bring ALL of our combat veterans
borne NOW.



119



Testimony
By;



To:



Michael "Mike" Neely

Director

Homeless Outreach Program

Los Angeles, CA. 90021



Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Subcommittee on Oversight and Invetigations

Honorable Lane Evans - Chairman



May 4, 1994



120



Good Morning

I am very pleased and honored to be able to be here to speak on behalf of the many
thousands of my fellow combatants who are residing on the streets of this country I have
in the past said, "that these men and women are homeless veterans", but as I was
preparing this testimony I reflected on how inaccurate that description truly is A veteran
is a person who has served his nation in honor and with dignity and now that their battle is
over is respected for their service Our homeless brothers and sisters are not veterans
because their battle is not over, they are not heroes, they are not respected, and they are
without honor

My generation went to service proudly and fi"eely and with the words of President
Kennedy echoing in our ears "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you
can do for your country" We believed President Johnson's promises of freedom,
opportunity and a Great Society Yes, we were given the carrot of hope, however, we
received the stick of despair

President Clinton is once again asking us to believe in the carrot of hope but we must
examine this carrot more carefully today than we did in the past because as survivors of
institutional rape we cannot allow ourselves to be victims again

We must begin a new era with new ideas for all of the old institutions The process has
begun with the new Department of Housing and Urban Development, now we must turn
our attention to the Department of Veterans Affairs (V A )

The new V.A. should turn its attention to dealing with the very complex problems of

today's veterans These problems include the problems of the homeless, the problems of

the unemployed, the problems of minorities, as well as, the problems of women

The new V A should reexamine its mission for the 21st century The new V A should

become the agent for change for America's veterans. The new V A. should be the voice of

hope for our hopeless brothers and sisters The new V.A should be our ally not our

adversary.

How can this be done'' What needs to be changed'' Can this truly become a reality''

All of the above questions can be answered if we first decide to have the courage to

change The only other element is the leadership for change I believe that courage and



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leadership are the reasons that Members of Congress are here We need your leadership
and your courage to make the changes necessary for our new V A

Where do we begin

I would like to begin wiih the most radical of my humble proposals For many years the
V.A. has been providing pensions and disability payments to veterans, as well as, medical
care for veterans. This situation has caused us to have not one V A but in actuality two

V A 's both with separate functions and separate rules of operations This has also caused
veterans to also have two bureaucracies to have to navigate and understand

It is possible for a veteran to be confined in a V A medical facility and not receive any

V A disability payment However the same person would automatically receive state
disability. 1 only use this example to demonstrate that the V A system is not a seamless
system of veteran care. I believe that any system of care for the 21st century must
separate income maintenance fi-om social welfare I believe that 50 years of integrating
social welfare and income maintenance has not worked

The new V.A should devote its attention to social welfare for its veteran clients This
should include psychological, social, housing and emergency needs services I believe that
the development of a care continuum for veterans should be created based upon the
special needs of the population This continuum should embrace as many disciplines as
possible and include veterans of all eras The welfare of veterans should be the guiding
principle for this new service system.

The function of income maintenance should be transferred to the Social Security
Administration I am not advocating any change in benefit level or any tightening of
eligibility requirements Actually, I would like to see the same standards applied as are
currently applied to SSI, SSDI and SSA I also believe that the funding mechanism could
remain the same 1 am convinced that this system of income transfer will provide the
veterans with improved efficiency, as well as, a single point of contact for income security
The veteran who receives social security and veterans benefits would only have to deal
with one agency

This reorganization can only be accomplished if the internal structure of the V.A. is
changed. Earlier, I stated that there was really two V A 's, well that is not entirely
accurate as the various medical centers and regional offices function rather independently
of the V A central office The General Accounting Office pointed this out in its



122



transitional report on the V A The report found this to be one of the very serious
problems of the V A Central office can issue orders or directives, however, compliance
appears to be at the discretion of the medical center directors A recent example of this
non-compliant attitude by medical center directors, is the national summit held by the V A
on homeless veterans, not more than 5 directors attended the summit In different parts of
the country different rules and standards apply, this makes it particularly difficult for
veterans Veterans deserve a uniform standard of care whether the veteran is in
Washington or Tampa.

Without being arrogantly specific I would like to propose that the central office assume
the role of strategic planner and compliance center, and that programs be developed on
the local level Each community should develop a community plan for the care of veterans
in their locale This community plan should include all of the needs of the veteran
population, not only medical but also social The plan should be the product of public
forums, meetings with veteran service organizations, social service providers, unaffiliated
veterans, elected officials and surveys (facilities and streets) This plan must become the
foundation of the local care system for all veterans in the community. The local plans
should then be sent to VA central office for approval and incorporation into a national
veteran strategy.

The local plan should also be the rationale for resource allocation, however the community
would also have a level of responsibility to obtain resources to implement the local plan
Non-compliance or failure to make sufficient progress toward the goals of the local plan
are areas of accountability for the local centers This re-organization could also greatly
reduce and/or eliminate the role of regional offices

Our new V A will also require some new tools

Veterans face an issue which every low to moderate income person faces today and that is
the inability to own a home It is truly ironic that the very men and women who fought for
the American dream cannot participate in that dream Historically, the VA. provided the
means to be able to participate in the American dream Today, the dream of far to many
veterans is not to own a home but merely to not have to live on the streets The V A has
not been able to help homeless veterans realize their dream About one-third (1/3) of the
homeless population are veterans, but one of the largest homeless programs is not
available for most veterans The Section 8 housing program should include veterans as a
priority class of recepient Even better, a special veterans section 8 housing program
should be created and administered directly by V A 1 am pained even,' time one of my



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brothers/sisters call me and say that he/she was just released from theV A. and he/she is
homeless and has nowhere to go The V A needs to be able to provide housing because
today, for many we cannot provide homes Congress must provide the tools to house our
veterans and the Veterans Section 8 Housing Program could be that first step.

The new V.A. must revise its exclusionary priority system. There are many veterans who
served with distinction but because of a youthful indiscretion are now excluded from V A
services I believe this to be unfair and unjust The veterans of the Viet-nam era and after
were judged by standards set by veterans of Korea and before I cannot argue that those
standards were wrong but the world of those veterans are not my world The standards of
my father are not my standards and my standards are not my son's I believed a new
system of eligibility based upon the acceptable standards of peers should be intiated
Services should be made available to veterans based upon need not upon previous
conduct, especially if we cannot with certainty state that the conduct was not precipitated
by military service or exacerbated by it

The problems of minorities must also be addressed by our new V.A., we must begin a new
program of cultural and ethnic awareness which will allow the new V A to embrace all
veterans We must remember that racism and discrimination have existed in the V A for
far too long and now it must end

We must also address the problems of women veterans because the roles of women have
changed in the armed forces so the new V A must be able to serve their needs We must
bury sexism, racism and classism in the grave of the old era so we can begin anew.

I am very lucky to be able to be here because you see I spent two tours in Vietnam and
returned home addicted to drugs I returned a psychological mess, a tormented, confused
and dejected young man. I tried to do the right things I got a job, got married, even had a
son I did not know that I could not function, I did not know that I needed help
Eventually, I lost everything my job, my wife, my son and finally, my will to live I have
tried to commit suicide on three occassions Finally, I ended up on the streets of Skid
Row, Los Angeles, and I was content to die on those streets What caused me to change
my situation'^ 1 realized through the plight of homeless people especially the veterans that
all people have worth, even me 1 was able to gain sobriety and to come to grips with my
war experiences That was seven and half (7 1/2) years ago Certainly, I have had a
limited measure of sucess, this does not make me special, but it does make me lucky Let
us not come back into into this room seven (7) years from now and talk about the lucky



124



few let us come back to celebrate the new V A for the many special The veterans of the
United States Of America
Thank You



125



STAND DOWN FOR VETERANS;
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Testimony of Maceo May

Housing Director

Swords to Plowshares

BEFORE THE

UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Veterans Affairs Committee

May 4, 1994

I want to thank the Subcommittee for inviting me to testify again on issues concerning our
country's veterans. I also want to thank and acknowledge this committee for its perseverance,
consistency and unswerving attention to the problems and concerns of those men and women who
have served in the military and made extreme sacrifices for all of us.

I will begin by saying to you that, unfortunately, and even with some breakthroughs in the area
of resources, we are seeing increasing numbers of veterans in desperate situations. We are also
seeing evidence that, as veterans grow older and enter mid-life, their neglected conditions and
problems are being exacerbated by mid-life crisis. More veterans who have been barely hanging
on, trying desperately to hold on to jobs, housing and stability, are losing their grip and plunging
into canyons of despair, homelessness and emotional havoc. We also know that more of these
veterans are seeking services as a result of the outreach accomplished through StandE>owns.

StandDown, a military term which describes the action of bringing soldiers out of combat, and
to an area of safety and security for a respite, was created from the observance that former
soldiers were experiencing a number of the elements of combat trying to survive on the streets
of America. They exist with limited rations under exdeme conditions, they live in the field, and
they use protective coloration and the elements of the landscape to avoid detection. In fact, we
characterize these veterans as this nation's true missing in action, for they are "MISSING IN
AMERICA".

Bob Van Kuren, the former Executive Director of Vietnam Veterans of San Diego, created Stand
Down as a result of an idea that took shape on a fishing trip with a close friend. The fu-st Stand
Down was held as a chicken feed and attracted almost 100 veterans. Based on this turnout and
the problems that veterans articulated, they decided to create a 3 day event which would address
some of the problems veteran's were experiencing. Needless to say, it was a success and led to
the creation of 35 StandDown events throughout the nation, which have served in excess of
10,000 veterans.

What has been the true purpose and benefits of these events?

* They have provided outreach and critical interventions.

Even though many veterans are existing in an urban area, they are often
isolated. Isolated from services because of a reluctance to encounter what
they believe will be negative experiences in seeking help, or , in some
cases, because they are too impaired to negotiate services. Isolated quite
often from other homeless people and society in general. As a result,
outreach (embodied in the nurtiuing and caring environment of Stand
Down events, and conducted by other veterans), has been invaluable in
connecting with these veterans.



126



The StandDown group leader program was designed to provide
interventions in the lives of men who have become apathetic, defeated;
who have all but given up. These interventions were designed as jump
starts - a dramatic effort to get the veteran to think about his situation, to
engender some hope into his life and help him to begin to believe in
himself again.

They have worked well. In fact, a number of interventions have been
immediately life saving. Others have repatriated veterans with their
families. Additionally, this effort has resulted in many veterans enrolling
in treatment or seeking out rehabilitative services after StandDown events
were held. We have provided transitional housing services to a small
number of veterans in our residential programs, but have been unable to
facilitate a significant number wanting services because of funding
limitations.

* They have demonstrated the magnitude of veterans needing help, and the problems
veterans face.

Over 10,000 veterans have sought help through these nationwide events.
More than 60% reported alcohol and other drug problems. Over 30%
reported psychological problems, and close to 70% have reported medical
problems of some kind. The average length of time homeless is about two
years and the average length of time without employment is about 3 years.

* They have raised awareness amongst the public about the plight of a large number
of our nation 's veterans.

StandDowns have generated almost as many volunteers as veteran
participants. High school and college students (many of whom knew little
about Vietnam and veterans) have enthusiastically given of their time for
these events. Through these volunteer efforts, the average citizen has
become more knowledgeable about our nation's veterans. Groups of
citizens in some communities have dedicated time and money to create
resources on a more permanent basis after their StandDown events.

* Community service providers and public agencies such as: the Dept of Labor,
DoD, HUD, DVA, and local governments have been sensitized to the issues of
veterans. Moreover, they have become cognizant of, and experienced an effective
and coordinated method of service delivery to this population.

Community based organizations, taking the lead, have organized and
coordinated an incredible array of public and community organizations in
bringing services to StandDown events. They have clearly demonstrated
their capacity and ability to construct comprehensive service delivery
systems involving important providers of services to veterans.

WHAT WE'VE LEARNED

CHALLENGES

These events are hugely successful in terms of outreach and providing respites for the three day
period. They have even enjoyed a fair amount of success in making interventions. However, the
challenge is to sustain the motivation and hope engendered during the event by having resources
that will endure after the closing ceremonies. It is a sad thing indeed to witness the dashed hopes
and reemergence of cynicism when we're not able to provide the level of services that Stand
Down suggests because of inadequate resources (especially in the area that is most critica] -



127



residential support through emergency, transitional and supportive housing). During a national
StandE>own conference, held here in Washington, most attendees agreed that after-assessment of
their events revealed similar findings..

While there is genuine acknowledgement of, and gratitude for the support of the DVA, Dept of
Labor and other agencies, these events are resource intensive, especially in the area of logistical
support. Lead agencies find there is a willingness amongst most to volunteer, but struggle and
consider it almost miraculous to have obtained material such as tents, cots, blankets, and power
generation. Often organizers have felt the entire event was jeopardized because commitments
in these areas did not materialize until the last minute.



OPPORTUNITIES

* Development of comprehensive service systems based on the StandDown model
that takes advantage of a team and partnership approach.

In the planning stages of these events, the expertise and role of each player
is defined and agreed upon. For example: The Dept of Veteran Affairs,
a major and enthusiastic participant in this event, brings to the table their
considerable experience and expertise in medical and acute mental health
services. Community based agencies bring to the table those social
rehabilitative services, including employment, legal and residential
services, that assist the veteran in transitioning and re-integrating back into
the community. Likewise other community and public agencies contribute
their unique expertise in areas that complete the comprehensive nature of
the services provided at StandDown.

* Because of the significant volunteer participation and community awareness, an
opportunity is created to involve more of the private sector in helping to address
this problem.

Congress and the Executive branch are in key positions to enlist the help
of the private sector. The theme of personal responsibility, so eloquently
advocated by President Clinton, should also apply to the corporate sector
in helping to address the problems of men and women who have served
this nation.

* Complete a legitimate and thorough assessment of the needs of veterans throughout
the country.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, through suggestions made
at a national StandDown conference, is willing to further these efforts by
putting together the most complete picture this nation has of the plight of
homeless veterans. The coalition can design a data collection instrument
that would be used by some 40 sites doing StandDown this year. Thus,
data collection can be standardized, collected through a centralized
location, evaluated, and a legitimate assessment can be produced.

* The StandDown concept can also be used to address the problems of our youth who
are engaging in combat on our streets - especially black youth.

A three day encampment involving veterans and youth could be the genesis
of a dialogue and a mechanism to reach these young people where other
methods have failed.



128



RECOMMENDATIONS



As these events have matured over the course of six years, we have gained valuable insight, and
that insight is offered in the form of the following recommendations.

* Create through legislation, comprehensive programs based on the StandDown
model. Some may say that comprehensive programs has been created through the
V.A. What I'm suggesting here is that legislation include the opportunity for
community based agencies (who are often the lead organizers and coordinators of
StandDowns), to directly operate these proposed programs.

StandDown, created in 1988, has probably been one of the longest
demonstration projects in history, and it should be the standard for
service delivery to homeless veterans. I don't think there is any
doubt that lead agencies (predominantly community based and
veteran specific), have proven their ability to bring together and
coordinate an incredible array of services, and agencies to address
the problems of homeless veterans.

* Former, closing and under-utilized military bases are tailored made for this type
of comprehensive program. We are proposing legislation that would give priority
to programs designed to serve veterans in this manner.

It must be remembered that veterans, during the course of their enlistment,
often played a large part in maintaining base facilities. Moreover, is it
simply stated that: given the nature of these environments, who is better
suited and deserving.

* Until, hopefully, there is no longer a need for StandDowns, provide the means by
which agencies of the Federal government can dedicate resources - especially
logistical resources - to the StandDown effort.

Agencies such as the National Guard, DOD and VA should be able to
coordinate resources like tents, cots, water buffaloes, generators, etc
through, perhaps, administrative remedies to existing restrictive statues.
Rather than these agencies trying to provide piecemeal resources on a
reactionary basis, a package of these resources could be created and
stored, ready to distribute to sites. In order to efficiently distribute the
package, StandDown event dates could be coordinated on a statewide and -
national basis.



In closing, 1 am reminded of a statement made by an individual which has always struck me.
That statement was: people are often willing to accept a complex error rather than the simple
truth. To turn that phrase: it seems that, when addressing the needs of veterans, many choose
to accept a complex neglect rather than reasoned solutions.

1 again thank you for inviting me here to day to provide testimony, and I hope my contribution
has been of some value to this committee as it continues to address the problems and needs of
our nation's veterans.




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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on VeterViewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 → online text (page 15 of 23)