CW: Military Service
The Veterans Affairs Department has received roughly 113,000 new disability compensation claims for benefits created by the landmark toxic exposure bill approved in August. This forced the VA to actively hire new staff to handle the flood of veterans into the system.
After President Joe Biden signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT, Act in August, the department began accepting claims for illnesses attributed to military service.
The illnesses include 23 respiratory illnesses and cancer related to exposure to burn pits and other air pollution during the Persian Gulf War and post-9/11 wars; radiation-related illnesses for veterans who participated in certain cleanup activities in the 1960s and 1970s; and hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance, or MGUS, for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
Veterans with one of these illnesses must submit evidence that they served in an area. They also have to prove they are eligible for benefits under VA policy. However, they do not have to submit medical evidence that their condition was service-related, effectively shortening processing times.
While the VA is accepting PACT Act-related claims now, it will not begin processing them until January — a provision in the law that gave the department time to hire additional personnel to review the claims.
According to McDonough, the VA is now processing roughly 7,500 claims a day and has reached as many as 7,900 in a single day.
In addition, many veterans experience food insecurity. According to a USDA Economic Research Service data, 11.1 percent of veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 lived in households experiencing food insecurity.
After controlling for demographic factors that generally predict food insecurity, such as age, educational attainment, and income, this analysis discovered that veterans have a 7.4 percent higher risk of food insecurity than nonveterans aged 18-64. According to USDA data, working-age veterans are more likely (7.4%) than non-veterans to experience food insecurity. This figure nearly triples to 22.5% for disabled veterans.
Many veterans are also homeless. According to a HUD survey, more than 90% of homeless veterans were men. Despite accounting for only 12% of the total veterans population in America, veterans of color accounted for roughly one-third of all veterans experiencing housing instability. About 53% of homeless Veterans are also disabled. Furthermore, half have mental health issues, and two thirds have substance abuse issues.
With 11,401 homeless veterans, California accounted for roughly one-third of all veterans in America. California, Florida, Texas, and Washington – the four states with the highest total number of veterans among their residents – accounted for approximately 70% of all homeless veterans in the United States.
Veterans sacrifice so much to serve their country. They often don’t see their families for months and can’t communicate with them. Military families have to deal with stress, and worry while their loved ones are serving their country. When veterans come home, they should not struggle to put food on the table or find stable housing. More needs to be done to help all Americans who are struggling to survive.
Kime, Patricia. “Veterans File Record Number of Disability Claims, Putting Pressure on Backlog.” Military.com, Monster Worldwide, 27 Oct. 2022, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2022/10/27/veterans-file-record-number-of-disability-claims-putting-pressure-backlog.html
Nyamathi, Adeline, et al. “Perception of Health Status by Homeless US Veterans.” Family and Community Health, vol. 27, no. 1, 2004, pp. 65–74. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44954230.
Rabbitt, Matthew P. and Michael D. Smith May 2021. Food Insecurity Among Working-Age Veterans, ERR-829, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
Shane, Leo. “The Number of Veterans Experiencing Homelessness Rose Slightly Even before the Coronavirus Pandemic.” Military Times, Military Times, 18 Aug. 2022, https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2021/03/18/the-number-of-veterans-experiencing-homelessness-rose-slightly-even-before-the-coronavirus-pandemic/.