David Garrett, a disabled veteran who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned from war to find that he had no home and sadly, he is not the only one. Nearly 50,000 veterans sleep on the streets each night. The biggest reason as to why this is a growing problem is simple: they need lawyers. According to a new study from the Department of Veterans Affairs, at least five out of the top ten problems leading to homelessness among veterans cannot be solved without legal help. Legal assistance is critical to ensure that veterans find justice to get the benefits they have earned and a step to ensuring a roof over their heads. Many veterans also have physical and mental disabilities that would make them eligible for disability compensation.
Yet, without an official diagnosis, the VA can deny an application for disability compensation, leaving veterans with no jobs and no benefits, resulting in homelessness for many. There are now many emerging partnerships between civil legal-aid and community health and housing organizations can permanently transform veterans’ lives but require investment to meet the need. Congress can also help by passing the veterans omnibus bill, section 608 of which would authorize the VA to provide funding to the organization that provides civil legal services to veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.Still, until bigger action is taken, many veterans face homelessness and instability.
By Gigi Haddad