More than 20 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States and an estimated 60,000 are homeless. Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Tommy Hardin will be holding a joint interim study beginning next week to develop a better understanding of the two issues and figure out a solution to better assist Oklahoma veterans.
Simpson, a retired Navy veteran, said the statistics are disturbing and Oklahoma’s veterans deserve better.
“It’s appalling that these brave men and women dedicate their lives to their country only to return from war and have no support system. These individuals are suffering from emotional, mental and physical disabilities that, in many cases, are causing them to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, tearing their marriages apart and preventing them from being able to keep a job,” said Simpson, R-Ardmore. “We must find a solution to get our veterans the help they need.”
Statistics show that while veterans constitute only eleven percent of the adult population nationwide, they represent 40 percent of the male homeless population. The percentage of homeless veterans has decreased over the past decade but the numbers remain high. Simpson and Hardin fear that with so many serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the problem of veteran homelessness may get worse.
Suicide is another issue that is more prevalent among veterans than the civilian population. Approximately, ten percent of Oklahoma adults are veterans but they make up over 25 percent of the state’s suicides.
While the federal Veterans Administration (VA) points out that the veteran suicide rate is declining there are still an estimated 22 veterans nationwide who commit suicide each day.
“Without support veterans and members of the military are left to battle their fears alone. Sometimes those struggles can turn into family problems, reckless behavior, or lead veterans to hurt themselves,” said Hardin, R-Madill. “In Oklahoma, we care about each other and sometimes even our heroes need our help.”
The study is scheduled for Tuesday, October 14, 2014, at 9:30 AM at the state Capitol in conference room 419C.
Several agencies and organizations who are working with Veterans in Crisis to address the homelessness and suicide rates will be sharing information with the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee about the services they provide as well as making suggestions of how the state can provide more help.
“We must find a way to identify veterans in crisis and reach out to them. As we sadly know, in too many cases, the federal VA is not meeting the needs of our veterans,” said Simpson. “We must find a way to help our Oklahoma veterans who fall through the cracks before they also become victims of war. Our heroes deserve better!"
Interim studies are public meetings so anyone is welcome to attend. The meeting can also be viewed live on the Senate website (www.oksenate.gov) by selecting “Live Committee Meetings” at the bottom of the home page and then selecting the room number.