Interested in learning more about veterans issues?
Veteran issues can be complex and difficult to understand. Our staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, have a deep understanding of the issues facing veterans. We have staff available for speaking engagements, broadcast interviews, community education opportunities, and publish editorials.
In our dual role as a service provider and advocate, we have a long track record of success helping veterans to lead stable and healthy lives. Swords to Plowshares is recognized for our expert leadership and continued dedication to improving the systems of care that our veterans rely on.
Quality of VA healthcare remains unique and unrivaled. Independent assessments show that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides high-quality services and a majority of veterans confirm this as satisfaction with its care surpasses its private counterparts. Improvements to healthcare delivery can still be made but the answer is not to funnel resources from the VA integrated care system to private providers unless veterans cannot access services in their local region. This led Executive Director Michael Blecker to dissent from the final report from the Commission on Care that evaluated and proposed recommendations on the VA healthcare system.
The VA’s pledge to end veteran homelessness has shown success in curbing homelessness, but many vulnerable veterans are still on the streets or losing housing, and becoming homeless. Specialized VA programs, including HUD/VASH, Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) serve hundreds of thousands of homeless and at-risk veterans each year. These programs have cut veteran homeless numbers almost in half. Federal funding for VA and Department of Housing and Urban Development face an uncertain future, threatening the viability of these success programs.
The VA does not consider individuals with less than honorable discharges (aka “Bad Paper”) as veterans, therefore excluding them from VA programs and services. Congress never intended for veteran status to be so exclusive, rather than exclude those with dishonorable discharges. Only 1% of service members discharged are barred from VA services due to Congress’ criteria, however, VA regulations have caused an exclusion of an additional 5.5% of all service members. Alarming statistics about veterans with bad paper discharges show they are more likely to have a mental health condition, more likely to experience homelessness, and are at greater risk of suicide, yet most of these vulnerable veterans with bad paper are denied by the VA.
Claims for benefits have been plagued by delays and often denied, leading to appeals. VA acknowledges that it takes an average of six years to resolve an appeal, with 470,000 appeals pending as of 2017. Most appeals are ultimately decided in favor of the veteran, whereas many denials often stem from the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) errors. Veterans are limbo for years as their health and living situation may face serious decline.
Aging veterans are at heightened risk for homelessness, depression and suicide, and face early onset of dementia, cancers, and heart disease resulting from service-connected injuries and illness. Many geriatric services lack veteran-informed care and operate under the dangerous misconception that all veterans get care from the VA and in fact, most do not receive care through the VA. Additionally, most systems of care that support seniors do not capture or track veteran status, potentially putting veterans’ health at-risk for conditions which are regularly screened by VA and other providers who are familiar with military culture.
College communities need to focus on data tracking, monitoring, cultural competency, formal and informal campus supports, and effective outreach strategies to genuinely support veterans and military-connected students on their campuses.
For those newly separated from the military, economic stability and employment support are key to a successful transition to civilian life. Many employers have sought support in hiring veterans at their workplace, however, most have reported difficulty in translating this support to effective hiring and retention practices.
Underserved Veterans (4-12-16)
Benefits being denied to veterans (3-31-16)
Bay Area Focus: Swords to Plowshares (10-25-15)
Off the U.S. Military On the Road (2-25-15)
S.F. supports, but can’t house, vets (11-9-14)