Elderly Veterans part of a growing hunger crisis among senior citizens - Feed Our Vets
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Elderly Veterans part of a growing hunger crisis among senior citizens

Hunger among the more than 12 million U.S. Veterans over 60 is reaching critical levels. Estimates are that over 300,000 elderly Veterans are food insecure.   Often times, relatives who do not live with the elderly Veterans in their families do not realize how little food they are living on.  Senior Veterans often avoid signing up for government food aid initiatives, and often go so far as to deny they even need help.

For as serious an issue as elderly hunger is, the epidemic is greatly under reported.

How many elderly are affected by hunger?

Fifty-one million people in the U.S. go to bed hungry every night, six million of which are adults. These numbers are unacceptable for any country, especially when the supposed richest country in the world can’t provide enough food for one-sixth of its citizens, much less the Veterans who have so valiantly defended it.

Are There No Programs to Feed the Hungry Elderly?

There are programs to help feed the elderly. However, like many programs in America, they have fallen on hard times due to the recent economic collapse. Below is a summary on what has happened to these initiatives, as well as a summary of why they are still not enough:

  • Many seniors have fallen on extremely hard times, often with savings and retirement funds having collapsed. One trend is for seniors to move in with grown children or family members.
  • Social Security barely covers the basics, and food prices continue to climb. This is made worse by there not having been a cost of living adjustment (COLA) since 2008.
  • Food bank donations have dried up since the financial downturn. They also can’t just give food out to anyone anymore – most recipients have to be referred by a social services program.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) works to help the elderly, but a full two-thirds of eligible seniors – 5 million – have yet to apply.

Additionally, some Veterans incorrectly fear that asking for food assistance might jeopardize their VA benefits.

Reasons for Hunger Among the Elderly

With online applications being readily available, seniors can apply from the privacy of their homes. Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards have replaced outdated paper food stamps. Caregivers and seniors have to acknowledge that major health issues and bad nutrition are a result of hunger.

Despite the ease of applying for benefits, there are still some barriers for the elderly:

  • Applicants who lost everything, and/or may be new to low income status, could be unaware of how to get food assistance.
  • Those now alone due to the death of caretakers, or who are no longer able to rely on others, may be unaware of the application process for food stamps (EBT card). Many Veterans, especially those whose situations are so dire they could end up homeless, do not have family to help out.
  • An elderly person may have food and services provided by friends or family, so they are not proactive about planning for a future without such help.
  • Embarrassment is a big factor in not applying, as many fear that family and friends will find out they’re on food stamps (EBT card)
  • Elderly people hate waiting for caseworkers, and often have physical troubles in cramped waiting rooms.
  • Others want to avoid the negative stigma of being on food stamps (EBT card).

Why the Elderly Wait to Apply for Food Stamps

Many elderly have bad memories of applying for food stamps in the past, often recalling being treated poorly, so they would understandably be hesitant in re-applying for the modern EBT program. Other problems are present as well:

  • Some figure they won’t qualify, so they don’t bother applying.
  • Too many think they won’t get enough help, and that applying isn’t worth the effort.
  • Some are misinformed, thinking they’ll lose other benefits if they apply for food stamps.
  • Seniors don’t want to be a burden on others by asking for help. Veterans were taught during their training and service to be self-reliant and surviving on what they have.
  • The elderly are more worried about identity theft than the Facebook Generation, and don’t want caseworkers to have private information.
  • Relatives can feel the negative associations of poverty if a relative is known to be using food stamps (EBT cards).

Applying for Food Stamps or EBT Card to Help Buy Food

The elderly, especially Veterans who may have brain injuries from combat, may be unaware of how bad their own food situation actually is. Making matters worse is that they do not know how to apply for food stamps or EBT.

It is important to stress to the elderly that times have changed, and that help is easier, and more private, than ever before. Special considerations may also be made for the elderly, which is a big help for Veterans permanently injured during service. See www.usda.gov for additional information.

The elderly can also receive food stamps (EBT Card), even if they’ve already applied for, or already receive, Social Security benefits. Visit a local Social Security office or go to www.ssa.gov.

As baby-boomers begin to hit their mid-60s, the elderly hunger crisis is going to explode. Many Veterans return from war with brain injuries, physical injuries and financial/personal troubles, so they may not know about all the options for help. Poor nutrition leads to increased health risks in every capacity. Our elders deserve better.

Source: Suite 101, with additional statistics found on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website, www.va.gov.


Homelessness study: Vets at greater risk than civilian population

The government’s first major study of homelessness among service members found that Veterans are more likely than civilians to be living on the streets.

In a January 2009 one-night survey, about 16% of the homeless found were Veterans, despite comprising just 10% of the adult population.

In that year, more than 136,000 Vets spent one or more nights in a homeless shelter.

The problem is growing urgently, as increasing numbers of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan begin to come home. The study found 11,300 Veterans age 18 to 30 used a shelter in 2009, according to Mark Johnston, deputy assistant secretary for special needs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“It’s an absolute shame,” he said.

President Obama has made ending chronic homelessness of Veterans and others by 2015 a goal of his administration.

“This report offers a much clearer picture about what it means to be a Veteran living on our streets or in our shelters,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said. “Understanding the nature and scope of Veteran homelessness is critical if we hope to meet President Obama’s goal of ending this national tragedy within five years.”

According to HUD and VA, the typical Vet in a shelter is…

Male: 93%

White, non-Hispanic: 49%

Age: 31-50 45%

Disabled: 52%

HUD, Veterans Affairs and the Labor Department have started a homelessness-prevention test project in five communities near military installations. HUD is providing $10 million in short-term rental assistance, the VA is providing $5 million for medical services and case management and the Labor Department is providing job training and counseling.

In addition to the data from a single night in 2009, the study also reviewed those who shuffle in and out of homelessness for the year.

Of the 75,609 homeless Veterans found on a single night in January 2009, 43% lacked shelter, and 57% were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing.

Nearly half were in California, Texas, New York or Florida.

Additional findings were that:

•Minorities are more likely to be homeless. Among all sheltered Vets, 34% were African-American, and 11% were Hispanic. By comparison, 10.5% of all Veterans are African-American, and 5.2% are Hispanic.

•Veterans stayed in shelters longer than non-Veterans. The average length of stay for single Veterans was 21 days, while non-Veterans stayed for 17 days.

•Most homeless Veterans, 96%, are without a family, compared to 66% of all homeless.

•The 136,000-plus Veterans found in the study amounted to one out of every 168 veterans in the USA and one of every 10 Veterans living in poverty.

Source: USA Today


Many female Veterans are homeless, and often with children

Many women Veterans are not receiving adequate help following military service, despite the military allowing them bigger roles in recent years.

Cities across are America are usually very accommodating to Veterans, yet most services tend to favor men.

All over the United States, however, female Vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars return to unemployment, hunger, homelessness and continual pain stemming from the physical and mental traumas from their service.

The Associated Press reports that over 230,000 American women have fought in these conflicts, with at least 120 having died. Yet the public is largely unaware of their contributions in the modern battlefield.

Stephen Peck, President of the Los Angeles, CA-based U.S. VETS, discusses some of the battles women face in the military.

“There is a shocking amount of sexual harassment and actual sexual assault going on. So a significant portion of them are coming back with sexual trauma and if that is layered on top of their PTSD, then that is a very complex case. And that woman cannot start her life until she addresses that.”

CNN’s BarStory continues below

bara Starr met with a number of women at the U.S. VETS center and found that, despite having risked their lives for their country, many females have gone hungry, slept in cars and even experienced homelessness.

“We go through financial problems, we go through emotional problems, physical…health problems…and it just pushes a lot of us over the edge,” said a Veteran named Druscilla, one of many who only offered their first name.

“…we end up having a lot of psychological problems that make it difficult for us to focus and survive back in society.”

U.S. VETS is opening housing for women Veterans and their families.

Vernita, a once-homeless Iraq Veteran, noted that after the war, “children expect ‘Mommy to be Mommy’…but Mommy’s just not that person anymore.”

Nearly 1.5 million Veterans are at risk of becoming homeless or going hungry, and one in three homeless people in the U.S. are Veterans.

Source: Huffington Post and CNN


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