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US Veterans Among Homeless Despite Government Initiatives


President Bush says his administration has increased spending for U.S. military veterans by more than two-thirds. But a study released earlier this week found that former military personnel account for one in four homeless people in the United States. And at least 1,500 homeless veterans are from the current U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. From Washington, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Sunday is Veterans Day in the United States, a day to remember and celebrate those who have served the country's military.

But a study this week from the public non-profit National Alliance to End Homelessness found that many former U.S. military personnel are slipping through the cracks and now account for 25 percent of the nation's homeless population.

Even more concerning, the report found that the homeless are not just older veterans, but also younger ones who have returned from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, signaling that the problem could grow.

President Bush says the nation has a solemn duty to care for its veterans. He says his administration has increased spending for veterans, and he is urging Congress to quickly pass a spending bill that would cover programs for former military members.

"Under my administration, federal spending for our veterans has increased by more than two-thirds. We have extended medical treatment to a million additional veterans, including hundreds of thousands returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. And we have expanded grants to help homeless veterans across the country," he said.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, the President called on the Democratic party-led Congress to pass legislation that would help veterans, including a spending bill that sets aside additional funds for their healthcare and housing.

Democratic party representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, a retired three-star Navy admiral, underscored his party's commitment to veterans during the Democrats' weekly radio address. He spoke about legislation his party supports.

"The new direction Congress has supported landmark legislation to increase the Veterans' budget by six-point-seven billion dollars, the largest single increase in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration. And there is a four-point-four billion dollar increase in veterans medical care, including 600 million additional dollars for new initiatives for mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.

There are 24 million living U.S. veterans. In fiscal year 2007, the government spent $80 billion on programs for them, including almost $35 billion for health care.

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