Today I would like to discuss the needs of our returning veterans. This might be a bit outside the scope of my duties as a San Diego housing commissioner, but as a San Diegan, I think this is a topic all of us need to engage on and quickly.
With our forces currently engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are beginning to see a new generation of veterans return to San Diego and, like the generations before them, many are deciding to make San Diego their home. These patriots are an amazing resource for our community because they often choose to “serve twice” by becoming actively involved in civic groups, neighborhood associations, or other forms of public service after serving in the military. It is also true that many veterans need a hand from the community they served, in the form of veterans’ benefits, educational assistance and health care that they earned by virtue of their service. We are beginning to see the demand for these services increase but the question is, are we ready?
A recent report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs alerted the VA to changes needed to adequately care for returning veterans who are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We as a nation are also now becoming familiar with the challenges associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI). But even beyond these very serious conditions are the very real needs of veterans seeking primary care, jobs, education and housing. What is San Diego doing to prepare to care for those who took care of us?
My concern, and the concern of so many others, is that failure to attend to the needs of our veterans will come at a high cost to our community. As a result of our past failures to respond to the needs of veterans, one third of our nation’s homeless consists of those who have previously served in uniform. Perhaps this is more relevant to my duties on the housing commission than I first thought.
I’d welcome your posts on how we can best prepare for and serve those who have served us. Questions on veterans’ benefits are also welcome — I’d be happy to spend some time tracking down answers. And personal experiences that might shed some light on this topic are also appreciated.