VA red tape forces military vet and family to live in tent

An Army veteran and his family have been forced to live in a tent while waiting on disability checks.  It’s been three months since now-retired James Dunahoe left the military.  He received 100 percent disability because he was injured in combat.

According to KOMO News, the Dunahoe family has been living in a pop-up trailer, seven of them in all.  Until the Veteran Affairs red tape gets cleared up, they will be stuck where they are.  Dunahoe needs to show proof of income before they can move into a home they have already chosen.

“I don’t want to say it sucks, but basically it does,” said Dunahoe.  “You do your time, pretty much.”

“You got injuries for your country and this is how the VA treats you?” said Dunahoe’s wife, Leahana.

The family has faced numerous hardships recently.  A few weeks ago their moving trailer was stolen.  It was later found but many of their items were missing including electronics and televisions.  Luckily, other precious mementos were still inside the trailer.

KOMO Problem Solvers called the VA to inquire on the status of the Dunahoe case.  VA personnel said they were working on the problem.  When they spoke to Leahana, they told her that their money and documents would available this week.

“He’s not happy that we have the news calling him,” Leahana said about the VA employee after she hung up.

Secretary of Veteran Affairs Robert McDonald announced last August that $207 million in Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grants would be released to assist an additional 70,000 homeless veterans.  This would be in addition to the 115,000 veterans and their families already assisted by the program.

In a press release, McDonald said the grants would be distributed to 82 non-profit agencies and included “surge” funding for 56 high need communities.  Under the grants, services are provided for low-income families to transition from high risk situations to permanent housing.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is committed to using evidence based approached such as SSVF to prevent homelessness and produce successful outcomes for Veterans and their families,” McDonald said.  “This is a program that works, because it allows VA staff and local homeless service providers to work together to address the unique challenges that make it difficult for some Veterans and their families to remain stably housed.”

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Obama Administration made a commitment to end veteran homelessness in the U.S. by the end of 2015.  Since the announcement was made in 2010, there has been a 25 percent decrease in the number of homeless veterans.

Data collected from the 2014 Point-in-Time Count showed 49,933 veterans experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2014.  If compared with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2013 estimates, it is a 14 percent decline.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness states the veteran homeless population consists of veterans who have served in several different conflicts, ranging from World War II to the recent conflicts. Although research suggests that veterans who served in the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam era are at greatest risk of homelessness, veterans returning from the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq often have severe disabilities, including traumatic brain injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  These factors are known to be associated with homelessness. As the military changes, so do the challenges it must adapt to.


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