VA official reflects on how her life experience has informed her work
Today’s guest blog is from Stacy Vasquez, the Deputy Director for Homeless Veteran Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
As a member of the fourth generation in my family to serve in the armed forces, I feel a particular affinity for current and former soldiers, sailors, Guardsmen, airmen, and Marines. As a child, I lived in a battered women’s shelter, so I also have a deep concern for those who have no place to call home.
I am grateful for the chance to put all of my experiences to use in my most important mission yet: ending homelessness among Veterans.
The risk factors that lead to homelessness are universal. Job loss, health problems, a missed rent check: these are setbacks that can affect any one of us. But they can be particularly acute for Veterans who have made so many sacrifices both stateside and abroad to fulfill their military duties.
My father, who served in the Navy in Vietnam, suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. This led to an inability to work, along with alcoholism and even violence. When I was 9, my mother removed my brother and me from the situation and our home.
Eventually, my father reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs for help. He received counseling, got sober, remarried, and by all accounts was a good husband to his second wife. But he never saw my brother or me again. Had he or my mother known earlier about the resources available to him, our family’s situation might have turned out differently.
My mother went on to earn a college degree and she built a permanent home for my brother and me. But other children out there aren’t as fortunate. We need you to help spread the word that Veterans are eligible for assistance. VA can provide health care, employment assistance, job training, as well as access to education and housing.
Veterans and their loved ones can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838) at any time to speak with a trained responder. Veterans can also access these resources online at http://www.va.gov/homeless
If you know a Veteran who is experiencing homelessness or who is at risk, please encourage him or her to call the hotline.