Do more to reach homeless veterans

And according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless veterans in Maryland increased from 3,100 in 2005 to 4,000 in 2007, giving Maryland the dubious distinction of having more homeless veterans than any of the surrounding states or the District of Columbia.

VASH vouchers will help reduce these numbers, but as the article also noted, the federal government has provided only 105 vouchers to Baltimore County and 70 to Cecil County. This is a mere drop in the bucket compared with the need.

Other benefits can also help veterans move into housing. Some veterans may be eligible for service-connected disability compensation, which can pay them more than $2,600 a month, depending on their disability rating, and can more than cover the cost of housing.

But barriers to getting these benefits can be extensive, including challenges collecting needed documentation of military service and lengthy waits exacerbated by improper denials of benefits veterans have earned.

Indeed, according to the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, only 44 percent of veterans in Maryland receive assistance in applying for benefits, which contributes to Maryland veterans having one of the lowest rates of compensation in the country.

We hope that expanded outreach efforts by the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs will ensure that more veterans are aware of the benefit programs that can help them.

Antonia K. FasanelliBaltimore Justin BrowneEllicott City

The writers are, respectively, the executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project Inc. and the co-chairman of the Maryland State Bar Association's Military Law Committee.

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