Our veterans have had experiences that most of us can’t even comprehend. Despite their sacrifices, veterans and tens of thousands active-duty military families still have to worry about putting food on the dinner table.
Twenty-percent of households that are supported by Feeding America have a veteran or someone that has served in the military. In fact, 27 percent of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have struggled to provide food for their families.
These shocking numbers are further confirmed by a study from Cambridge University, which shows that more than 25% of veterans reported food insecurity in the past calendar year with 12% reporting “very low food insecurity.” The Cambridge study also pointed out that veterans experiencing food insecurity were more likely to be younger, not married or partnered, living in houses with children, have lower incomes, and are more likely to engage in tobacco use and more frequent binge drinking.
Veterans are dependent on federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to be able to provide food for their families. A new study shows that nearly 1.5 million veterans live in households that completely rely on SNAP benefits to keep themselves and their families healthy and well fed, including 125,000 active duty service members (nearly 10%).
Food insecurity among veterans often stems from the mental health issues that our veterans endure. Understandably, veterans experience great difficulty adapting back to civilian life when they return overseas, especially those who don’t have any support system from their family or friends. Veterans, like millions of other citizens, experience the same shortages of affordable housing, low living wages, and healthcare, however, are also more likely to have symptoms of Post Tramautic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and mental health issues. Fifty percent of homeless veterans have a serious mental illness, and 70% have substance abuse problems.With those obstacles to overcome, it is no wonder the projected number of homeless veterans all over the age of 55 is expected to increase.
While there are 18.8 million veterans in the United States, only 9 million of those veterans are able to be served by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those 9 million veterans are not getting anywhere near the help they deserve. Most people believe that veterans are automatically covered by health care plans provided by the VA. Most veterans and their families rely on private health insurance, which helps cover 13.6 million veterans, while only 1.8 million veterans turn to public assistance such as Medicaid to attain healthcare coverage.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured veterans decreased by nearly 40% between 2013 and 2015, but this progress can be completely undone due to Congress’ latest ACA repeal efforts under the Trump Administration. This decrease was due to the expansion of Medicaid in several states across the country as veterans had more of a selection of health care plans offered. Just recently as of 2014 it became known that 64,000 veterans that are enrolled in the VA health care system in the past 10 years have never been seen for an appointment by doctors. A report conducted by Senator Tom Coburn found that as of 2014 more than 1,000 veterans may have died since 2004 from malpractice or lack of care from VA medical centers. When you combine this negligence with the amount of health and hunger-related issues that veterans face on a daily basis, it is no surprise that hunger is plaguing our veterans to such a high degree.
From the lack of quality healthcare and a lack of support from the Department of Veteran Affairs, so many of our veterans become homeless. In 2009 President Barack Obama outlined an expansive goal of his to end veteran homelessness in the country by 2015. First Lady Michelle Obama received pledges from 702 mayors, 9 governors, and 172 county officials to end veteran homelessness in their respective communities.
The only city since then to eliminate veteran homelessness has been New Orleans, while 2 states and 29 local communities have ended veteran homelessness with more projected to join them according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The U.S. Department of Veterans estimates that there are currently 40,000 homeless veterans.
Rich Synek, founder of Feed Our Vets, the only national non-profit working tirelessly to feed America’s hungry veterans says, “Feeding a hungry veteran is a great way of saying thank you for their service, to say that we have not forgotten about you.”
The individuals that sacrifice so much for our country’s well-being are more likely to suffer from food insecurity, mental health problems, and poor access to healthcare. This predicament severely impacts millions of veterans who suffer from hunger on a daily basis.
Synek implores that we do more to help feed veterans.
“I don’t think anytime in the next several years we will be getting any federal funding, so the country needs to donate to organizations feeding veterans,” he said. “Individuals also need to contact their representative in Congress, their Senator, and raise awareness on social media about the plight veterans are facing with hunger.”
We believe that veterans shouldn’t have to choose between food and having a healthcare plan. Share this article on social media to spread the word about this significant issue. Also, check out Move For Hunger’s advocacy page to learn more how you can make difference against food insecurity in your community.