Today is Veteran’s Day, November 11, when Americans pause to pay special tribute to those who have served the country in its military. But this year, the tributes ring hollow for many veterans who are struggling just to eat after Congress slashed the food assistance benefits relied upon by almost a million of them.
In New York City alone, 40 percent of veterans, — about 95,000 of the city’s former servicemen and women — are forced to eat at soup kitchens and other charity food banks, according to Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of the Food Bank for New York City.
“That is not a guesstimate. That is a fact,” said Purvis, in a speech Sunday, adding that she expects the situation for veterans to go downhill now that the $5 billion food stamp cuts have taken effect.
In Oregon, 20 percent of households needing help from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP) have at least one veteran as a member, according to the Oregon Food Bank.
“Our concern is that any cut in SNAP is going to reduce either the amount of food or the quality of food that they can afford,” said Jeff Kleen, public policy advocate for the food bank.
Keen said that since November 1, when the food stamp cuts took hold, private charities have seen a sudden hike in the number of people who rely on them to eat, causing their resources to be depleted quickly.
Even before the cuts, the average veteran who received SNAP assistance got about $4 per day in federal help. Now those vets will have to figure out how to eat on even less.
In Alabama, 29,000 veterans are hit by the food stamp cuts. The Pentagon has also said that about 5,000 active duty troops must use food stamps to eat, because their military salary is too low to feed themselves and their families adequately.
About 900,000 veterans and their families nationwide need food stamp help to get by.
While the overall unemployment rate for veterans, 6.9 percent, is slightly under the national rate of 7.3 percent, for younger veterans who signed up after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the rate is significantly higher.
For those vets, moved to defend their country after the worst terrorist attack in its history, the unemployment rate is now 10 percent, which is down from a 2011 high of over 13 percent, but still represents 246,000 young military veterans who cannot find work after leaving the military.
Originally called Armistice Day, today's holiday was established in 1919 to honor those who served in World War One. In 1954, it was renamed Veterans Day in honor of all military veterans.
SOURCES: CBS 2 New York, Portland Tribune, All Alabama, CNN, U.S. News and World Report, Wikipedia