As the nation celebrates its heroic veterans on November 11, it is important to remember African-Americans who have bravely served the country and the post-military needs they face. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to providing needed support and resources as they continue with their lives outside of the military.
The department provides medical care, pensions, educational resources, and other support services to the millions of U.S. veterans who have served the country. Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, is a Cabinet-level member of the Obama Administration who reports directly to the Commander-In-Chief.
The environment that veterans face when they come home can be one of daunting challenges. These obstacles include mental and physical injuries, government bureaucracy, homelessness, and difficulties adjusting to civilian society. While Veterans Day is designed to celebrate the achievement of U.S. military personnel and their bravery, it is also a time to remember how they need continual support outside of active duty.
“Our [veterans] deserve a tremendous amount of gratitude for their valor, often going beyond the call of duty and sometimes paying the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms and liberty we hold dear. From our troops who liberated Europe and the Pacific to those still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must fulfill our responsibility to those that have served us admirably,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) in a written statement.
There are over four million minority veterans in the United States. Of this group, over two million are African-Americans who make up 10 percent of the 23 million total veterans.
One of the main issues found among more veterans is homelessness. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, there are 107,000 homeless veterans on any given night. Of these veterans, 56 percent are African-American or Latino despite boasting both groups being much smaller percentages as a part of the military and U.S. populations.
The Center for Minority Veterans and Center for Women Veterans are both committed to addressing this crisis. They also work with the National Urban League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Congressional Black Caucus, using their networks to fill the needs of African-American veterans in the community.
Sharing information about education and veterans benefits are two additional ways the minority and women’s outreach groups help those who served in the military. The post-9/11 G.I. bill provides 36 months of paid tuition, a stipend for living expense, and a housing allowance for those seeking their education after service. Both centers are also helping veterans navigate the backlogs veterans face when they attempt to secure their benefits.
The major challenge for not only African-Americans, but many veterans, is the lack of knowledge of any of the post-military services available to them. The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes this gap and is working to get personnel the information they need before it is too late. On this day of remembrance, they know that one of the best ways to support our men and women in service is to fully support them after the mission is complete.