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Eye Opener: A focus on homeless vets

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! (Unless you're Jay Leno begging for his old job.) Government and military officials will meet for the next three days with state, local, religious and other community leaders for the biggest-ever government-sponsored summit on homeless veterans.

One-third of adult homeless men and nearly one-fifth of all homeless adults in the U.S. are military veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Estimates suggest 131,000 veterans may be homeless on any given night, and about twice the number are homeless at some point during a year.

The issue has earned special attention and concern from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, who has vowed to cut the number of veterans sleeping on the streets and wants to ensure the department does what it can to help vets avoid homelessness. He will address the summit Tuesday afternoon.

VA spent about $2.8 billion to provide health care and other services to roughly 100,000 homeless veterans in fiscal year 2009, with an additional $400 million earmarked for this fiscal year.

Interestingly, roughly 3 percent of homeless vets served in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Though that number is small, a 2007 study by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that recent vets are ending up on the streets faster than vets from other conflicts. For example, Vietnam veterans spent five to ten years trying to readjust to society before becoming homeless, but Iraq and Afghanistan vets may end up homeless within 18 months.

More from the conference throughout the week.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | November 3, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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