"No one is listening." This comment is one that we at Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania hear often from veterans who contact our region's office in desperate need of affordable and safe housing, decent-paying jobs and assistance with other obstacles that they are trying to overcome.
For the past 30 years, VLP has served veterans from all wars. However, in the past three years, we have seen a 30 percent increase, each year, in demand for our housing, employment, and support services.
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the longest period of war in U.S. history, has required an unprecedented use of National Guard and Reserve troops, and an unprecedented number of deployments for extended periods of time. Troops are returning from these conflicts after experiencing polytrauma, meaning multiple traumatic injuries.
With more troops expected to return from deployment, and because of expected troop reductions, Veterans Leadership Program expects to experience an even greater demand for services. (Last year, VLP served more than 2,300 veterans, and made 5,000 referrals for additional assistance.)
With no major military installation in the area and with one of the largest concentrations of veterans (particularly National Guards and Reservists) in the United States, southwestern Pennsylvania is challenged to create the support system needed by many veterans. Despite efforts by government and human service agencies, current estimates state that there are an estimated 65,000 veterans in Pennsylvania living below the poverty line, placing Pennsylvania 5th highest in the United States. The unemployment rate for young veterans is 69 percent higher than the national unemployment rate, and young veterans are three times more likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts.
There is assistance available. If you are or know of a veteran, service member or one of their family members who are in need of help or services, please contact us at 412-481-8200 or go to www.vlpwpa.org.
Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania Inc.