SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — There are more than 45,000 nonprofits registered with the IRS and dedicated to helping many of our country’s 18 million veterans, along with their families.
Despite all the help that’s available, many veterans fall through the cracks with high rates of everything from substance abuse to suicide.
Watching Veterans Day observances often resurrects emotional memories for service members and the friends with whom they served.
“Because you think about a lot of them that you met that are not here now and you miss them,” Navy veteran Frederick Blackwell explained.
It often is jarring for veterans to leave the service and all its structure, the 70-year-old Shreveport resident added.
"Then you come back and you've got freedom. Freedom from what? Most people don't want you to be around 'em. They think something's wrong with ya."
Blackwell, who worked at the VA for years as a mailman, said he knows all about trying to cut through the bureaucracy and red tape — a task that can be easier said than done.
“Because a lot of things you go through repetitionally (sic) you don’t get no results; no results, same thing. File, come back, same file, back and forth. So you get frustrated.”
That’s why Blackwell and others credit agencies like Vet Centers for helping veterans navigate through the assistance system.
It’s a clearinghouse for all the services that may be able to help veterans get through physical or psychological ailments.
“We’re all volunteers from St. Mary AME Church,” Navy veteran Wade Hall said as he served up food.
At Christian Service’s daily soup kitchen, he said, days like this are a time for him and others to give back to the community.
“And we have our members, and we have other members that are actually veterans. And that’s the whole, the whole community giving back because, as Christians, that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Authorities point to some positive trends in the VA system.
For example, the 49,000 job openings at the 140 VA facilities in the country is a 12 percent drop from last year.
That’s according to a report by the Veterans Affairs inspector general’s office.
Officials have called that severe staffing shortage the cause for many of the troubles with veterans’ care.
As for military suicides, VA figures show the rate for years stood at an average of 20 per day before dropping this year to 17 a day as The Pentagon continues to make it a top priority.