Study paints picture of aging, homeless veterans

Veterans are significantly more likely to be homeless than civilian adults, and these homeless vets are getting steadily older and sicker, researchers reported on Friday.

 

The new study predicts that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ health care system could be deluged with at least some of these sick and homeless vets. “They're aging up," said Robert Hallett, national coordinator of the VA's Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program.

Jamison Fargo of Utah State University and the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans and colleagues studied 130,000 homeless people from seven jurisdictions and found veterans were more likely than non-servicemembers to be among them. They controlled for some of the factors that can lead to homelessness -- notably, poverty.

“As age increases, an increasingly larger proportion of the male homeless population is composed of veterans,” Fargo said in an e-mail interview.

“Male veterans were almost 50 percent as likely and female veterans were almost twice as likely to be homeless as nonveterans in the general population,” Fargo’s team wrote in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Among the population in poverty, male veterans were more than twice as likely and female veterans were more than three times as likely to be homeless as nonveterans."

Men were most likely to be homeless between the ages of 45 and 54. Men in this age group, who served in the 1970s and 1980s, have continuously been at a higher risk of homelessness, the researchers said. For women veterans, those aged 18-29 were at the highest risk of homelessness. Offering recent female veterans housing assistance and programs that help with the transition to civilian life might help reduce this rate, the report suggested.

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