With Veterans Day around the corner, Boston City Councilors Felix G. Arroyo and Salvatore LaMattina recently held a hearing to ensure Boston veterans have all the necessary tools to facilitate their reintegration into civilian life and that they are provided with a safe and healthy environment upon returning home.
“Veterans risked their own lives for our country. We should show them our respect and admiration for their sacrifice to our nation by providing them with the services they need and deserve when they return,” said Boston City Councilor At-Large Felix G. Arroyo.
Despite the wide range of programs and services available, veterans are facing several obstacles. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are currently 1,750 homeless veterans in Massachusetts. Veterans still account for almost 25% of the homeless population and 1 in every 10 homeless veterans under the age of 45 is female. Additionally, 7% of all veterans have reported having a substance abuse problem in the last year. Research also indicates that almost 30% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from a mental disorder or cognitive impairment. While these issues affect veterans from past and present wars, the hearing paid particular attention to the problems facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
“With both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan depleting our current economy, I am deeply concerned that the resources to protect our members of the military in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines will not be sufficient when they return home. Furthermore, it is also very important to me that our veterans from previous wars get the proper services and recognition they deserve. I took to heart their input at this hearing,” said Boston City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina.
Daniel Magoon, representative of the Boston Firefighters Veterans Outreach Partnership, added, “It has to be hard to turn the switch off when you get back from combat. In addition to the issue of reintegration into a civilian lifestyle, once they return most veterans play a waiting game for employment, especially with civil service jobs. Housing benefits, education opportunities and claims support for returning veterans often become an issue as well.”
The City of Boston Veterans Services, the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion were among nearly a dozen veteran organizations that testified in the hearing.
"This hearing provided us with a great opportunity to learn what new services and programs are available to our heroes, and find ways to eliminate duplication of effort and potentially consolidate some resources to further improve a system that is first in the nation when it comes to veterans benefits,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars State Legislative Director, Michael S. Figlioli, PDC.