Thursday, February 17, 2011

Evictions, foreclosures, unemployment, sexual assaults

Phil Lipof (WABC -- link has text and video) reports an Iraq War veteran in New Jersey has learned that the federal government is moving to evict him and his wife from public housing. Page Vassallo states that the man stays over to assist her with Sean who has TBI and is paralyzed. The federal government says it's an extra person in the apartment. In other veterans news, Meena Thiruvengadam (USA Today) reports, "Female veterans are twice as likely to become homeless as women who never served in the military, the government's latest data show. The unemployment rate for female veterans of the long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rose to 13.5% in January above the 8.4% that was seasonally unadjusted average for non-veteran adult women." The unemployment rate for young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars is at 15.2% nationally and they are among the most at risk for foreclosures. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which released the following announcement yesterday:

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman, Senator Patty Murray, released the following statement regarding the announcement of a number of new financial initiatives for servicemembers and veterans. This announcement comes just one week after Senator Murray sent a letter to Holly Petraeus, head of the Office of Servicemember Affairs in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at the U.S. Treasury Department, regarding some financial institutions that were not offering protections to servicemembers provided under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). SCRA is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

"These new programs, which go above and beyond what is mandated by law, will help ease concerns over financial situations at home for servicemembers," said Senator Murray. "I am also thrilled that they include plans to find new ways to harness the skills of servicemembers and veterans as employees. I will continue to fight to ensure that the housing and employment needs of the men and women who serve our nation are met."

Included in the new initiatives, which are being offered by JPMorgan Chase, are:

•A lowering of interest rates to 4% for SCRA-protected eligible borrowers;•A pledge to not foreclose on any currently-deployed servicemembers;
•A pledge to donate 1,000 homes to servicemembers and veterans over the next five years; and
•A pledge to partner with other major corporate employers to hire 100,000 servicemembers and veterans over the next ten years.

Unemployment and foreclosures are only some of the problems today's veterans are facing. Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum has been walking across America to raise attention on the issues facing veterans. Why? He explained to Fernando Castro (Colorado Country Citizen News) that a friend of his "went home, had a great job and everything was going pretty well and the economy slowly kind of went south and his job laid off thousands of people, including himself. He was very depressed and reached out to me in an e-mail. I kept reading this e-mail over and over and I thought, 'You know, I need to do something to help my friend who deserves to be helped'."


(Troy Yocum photo taken by John Crosby)

Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum. Since April, he's been walking across the country. Tracy Dang (Katy Times) reports, "With his wife Mareike by his side, Yocum took the first step of his 17-month journey on April 17, 2010. Emmie the Superdog is also accompanying him on the trip as he bangs his drum and asks for donations toward his $5 million goal." The Cypress Times notes that Troy arrives in Houston, Texas tomorrow and he will meet with the city's mayor, Annise Parker, who has "proclaimed Friday as 'Hike for Our Heroes Day'." The article notes:

Yocum is scheduled to visit the following veteran posts on Friday, February 18th:

AMERICAN LEGION Post 416 / Arrive at 9 am - leave at 9:30

AMERICAN LEGION Post 560 / Arrive at 11:30 - leave at noon

VFW Post 8905 / Arrive at 1 PM - leave at 1:30 PM

AMERICAN LEGION Post 586 / Arrive at 2 PM - Leave at 2:30 PM

AMERICAN LEGION Post 578 / Arrive at 4:30 - leave at 5 PM

VFW Post 10352 / Arrive at 6:30 - leave by 7 pm

An issue especially facing female service members (and female veterans -- they are more likely to receive help as veterans than they are while active duty) is covered in Kanya D'Almeida's "Rape in the Ranks, the U.S. Army's Dirty Secret" (IPS):

In 2007, the Department of Defence (DoD) reported 2,200 cases of rape in the military. In 2009, the figure jumped to almost 3,300. One in every three women in the army has experienced some form of sexual assault, from harassment to rape; 37 percent of victims are raped multiple times, 14 percent are gang raped.
Overall, the rate of rape within the military is twice that of the civilian population.
Even more rampant than the abuse itself is the climate of impunity in which these crimes are taking place. According to a two-part investigation published by Al-Jazeera in 2010, over 50 percent of reported cases are dismissed for lack of 'proof' or adequate information, and of the 10 percent of perpetrators who are actually prosecuted, most suffer nothing more than a small pay cut or a reduction in rank. Eighty percent of those accused receive an honourable discharge.

Tuesday, some survivors of military sexual assault, their supporters and attorney Susan Burke held a press conference announcing their lawsuit against the Pentagon. Burke and military sexual assault survivors Rebekah Havrilla and Mary Gallagher are Diane Rehm's guests for the first hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live beginning at 10:00 am EST).

The following community sites -- plus Military Families Speak Out -- updated last night and this morning:

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends