Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States, and the American Bar Association is commemorating the holiday this year by calling on members to support veterans.
ABA President Stephen N. Zack wrote to members on Friday saying,
Veterans face a wide array of legal issues created by their unique circumstances, including challenges in obtaining medical care, disability benefits, reemployment rights, as well as help with consumer, housing, criminal and family law matters, but often are unable to afford legal counsel.
By partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the ABA has launched a pro bono project for America’s 100,000 veterans that are homeless. The fact that this number is so high in itself warrants further investigation.
In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.
However, a 2007 Congressional Research Study report indicated that veterans of World War II and Korea are actually less likely to be homeless than non-veterans. The higher disparity of post-Vietnam homelessness representation could not directly attributed to higher stress levels in combat, including combat exposure and participation in atrocities, and did not find a direct relationship between homelessness and PTSD.
The factor most strongly predictive of homelessness for veterans was social isolation, specifically low levels of support during the first year after discharge and being unmarried. Participation in combat and atrocities was found to contribute to low social support, non-PTSD psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and unmarried status.
A full list of the types of support the ABA is providing veterans can be found through the Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits & Services.