There is growing evidence an unanticipated outcome of the Bush war in Iraq is arising as reports indicate the increasing presence of Iraq War veterans among the homeless. Veterans of America’s wars in this century now total 194,254 of the 744,313 homeless people in this nation. The Iraq War has already generated 1,500 homeless veterans and many experts believe this is merely the tip of the wave. “We are going to have a tsunami of this eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous,” says VA official Daniel Tooth. Of course, these figures are only for those identified by the Veterans Administration and may not necessarily be the real total.
From the beginning of its assumption of power, the Bush administration cut funding for mental health components of the VA although initiating a war in Iraq was bound to impact the mental health of those fighting. Many experts are shocked that America already has 1,500 homeless Iraq War veterans. The Vietnam War ended and people forgot it had ever happened and few political leaders paid any attention to the psychological impact of fighting in the jungles of Vietnam upon soldiers. We are living with the consequences of failure to provide mental health care for Vietnam veterans. Conservatives who support continued fighting in Iraq never pay any attention to the tremendous emotional problems being encountered by those doing the fighting. The old adage of pay now or pay later is true. We must rapidly and dramatically expand funding for mental health facilities in the Veterans Administration.