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Homelessness, PTSD, and Drug Abuse: The Government is Failing Our Veterans

by Wendy Innes, published

It's no secret that the nation's veterans are facing some serious challenges. A new film, premiering on Veterans Day, takes a look at issues facing the country's returning service members, as well as how veteran organizations and private charities are struggling to bridge the gap between what the VA provides and what veterans really need.

Souldier, The Documentary is a raw, unvarnished look at the troubling issues facing today’s veterans. Among them, PTSD, homelessness, and the self medication of substance abuse are creating a growing class of social outsiders who also happen to be our nation’s patriots.

"Veteran’s organizations and noble private benefactors strain to reach the needs of our maladjusted and disenfranchised heroes, who only need a hand up, not a hand out," said Janet Hook, vice president of marketing for the film and founder of the Vintage Vixens of Arizona, one of the private organizations struggling to meet the needs of veterans. "Freedom is not free. Souldier was created to give a voice to our veterans who otherwise wouldn't have one."

While the VA has several programs in place to help veterans with PTSD and substance abuse, in addition to continuing initiatives aimed at reducing veteran homelessness, the VA admits that it can't care for all of the nation's veterans in need.

Housing Our Veterans

In August, the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced its latest round of funding to public housing organizations to aid homeless veterans. Through this $7.8 million program, added to a $60 million program announced in May, the coalition hopes to build on the 17 percent decline in veteran homelessness since 2009 with housing and clinical services.

However, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) believes this is just scratching the surface of the problem.

According to the NCHV, only 7 percent of the population can claim veteran status, but nearly 13 percent of the homeless population are veterans. due to substandard living conditions, the absence of a support network, and poverty.

Healing Our Veterans

, about a quarter of all veterans seeking treatment at their local VA center are there for PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or both.

PTSD is a huge problem for America's veterans from all conflicts. According to a report from the CBO

While it's exceptionally difficult to estimate how many veterans will seek treatment for PTSD -- since one of the hallmarks of the condition is distrust and avoidance -- it is safe to say that the number of vets will only increase and so will the costs.

According to

some, this could be money wasted as the treatment methods often used by the VA clinics seldom leads to full recovery. This sharply contrasts private programs which boast rather good recovery rates.

"PTSD is much more complicated than most realize, and unfortunately, the treatment available, including through the VA (when you can get it) is rather superficial," said Dr. David Reiss, a psychotherapist who has treated PTSD patients.

Reiss went on to say that treatment must be highly individualized to each patient, and that is something that the providers at the VA just don't have the resources to do. He added that treatment can be improved by "better tracking the status and circumstances of patients" instead of "15 minute med checks every several months."

That being said, better treatment for veterans means more money, something that the country is sorely lacking … or does it?

In 2007 alone, the VA issued 1.2 million prescriptions totaling $181 million for drugs that are neither approved to treat PTSD nor shown to be effective in its treatment. Perhaps the VA could keep its promises to America's veterans by cutting the waste. Until it does, there will be private organizations to take up the slack.

Souldier, the Documentary will debut on Veterans Day, Monday, November 11, 2013, at the Valley Arts Theater in Tempe, Arizona. It will then be available through Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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