Making the transition from the military to civilian life can be difficult.
Many veterans come out of the military with combat trauma, a condition which must be dealt with before they can move on. And many don’t admit their condition for fear their discharge will be delayed or they won’t be able to get jobs needing a security clearance or jobs in law enforcement.
Only a fraction of those with combat trauma register with a VA hospital.
Unemployment is also a major issue for returning veterans and leads to a high rate of homelessness. Over 30 percent return without jobs. Many veterans went into the military right after high school so have no training other than the combat training they received in the military.
The organization U.S. VETS was founded 20 years ago in Los Angeles to provide comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk Vietnam veterans. In 2001, U.S. VETS began serving women veterans and their children as well. The organization has expanded to include 12 locations in 6 states and the District of Columbia and now serves veterans from every era. A U.S. VETS facility in St. Louis opened in April 2012.
It is estimated that there are 500 homeless veterans in St. Louis City and branching into the county. It is difficult to ascertain the exact number because many of the younger veterans couch surf, sleeping at various times at a parent’s home, at a friend’s house, or in their car.
The President and CEO of U.S. VETS is Stephen Peck, who served in the Marines during the Vietnam War and is the son of actor Gregory Peck. Bill Wallace, who served in the Army in Panama and Bosnia, is the Executive Director of U.S. VETS-St. Louis. The organization partners with the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University which provides a caseworker to assess the needs of veterans and their families. In serving veterans, U.S. VETS follows 7 core values, all with the goal of helping veterans find permanent housing, employment and independence.
Stephen Peck and Bill Wallace were Don Marsh’s guests on “St. Louis on the Air” to discuss the issue of veteran homelessness and services offered by U.S. VETS.
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