Shoeless and Homeless My Eye, This Man Needs a Doctor!

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach and Examiner.com

Himeless Jeffrey HillmanSHOES1-articleInline

Army Vet Jeffrey Hillman Received Gift of Shoes from NYPD Officer Lawrence DiPrimo

Photo Credit: New York Times/Robert Caplin

I believe it was a touching gesture by New York Police Officer Lawrence DePrimo, 25, who about two weeks ago, bought and gave a pair of $100 Skechers boots to presumed homeless US Army veteran Jeffrey Hillman, 54. But as the New York Times reported this week, a “woman said she had bought him a pair of shoes a year ago.” Hillman does not need or want shoes – for that matter, nor does he a need a home. Hillman reportedly has a home paid for by his government benefits. What Hillman may need is the kind of mental health care and counseling many US veterans today so desperately need.

After walking around barefoot for any considerable amount of time, shoes are, at best, painful. Moreover, when spotted on Broadway in New York this week, again without shoes, and asked ‘where was Officer Primo’s gift?’ he said it is best for him if “those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Hillman said to the New York Times.

“I could lose my life,” he added.

In Hillman’s world, wearing shoes makes him vulnerable to trauma – either real or imagined.

Hillman has an apartment in the Bronx, officials on Tuesday told New York’s News 4 I-Team.

“He does have stable housing,” said Seth Diamond, New York City’s homeless services commissioner. “We’ve worked with Mr. Hillman for years,” he added.

Since we got sucked in on this virulent heart-strings-tugging bandwagon, so many of  us “support the troops” and hate homelessness so much, let’s look at some hard facts about how our military veterans are fairing when back in the loving embrace of the US homeland.

The VA reports, as of September 2009, there were approximately 23 million veterans.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans says there are between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans who are homeless at some time during the year; and on any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters.

The good news is, the number of homeless vets in the US declined by nearly 12% between January 2010 and January 2011, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

More bad news, thirty-three percent all homeless males are veterans, who are also twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless. They represent only 11% of the adult civilian population, but are 26% of the homeless population, according to the Homelessness Research Institute.

The risk of women veterans becoming homeless is four times greater than for male veterans. The National Center on Family Homelessness says 7% of the nation’s homeless veteran population is comprised of women and that between 23 and 29% of female veterans seeking VA medical care reported incidents of sexual assault.

The homelessness of so many military veterans is a real and critical issue, but likely Hillman (whatever the cause) and surely many thousands of other veterans are suffering from some sort of mental illness and/or other social disabilities — and are finding it increasingly difficult to adjust to an increasingly complicated society.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness says veterans often have limited education and lack of transferable skills from military to civilian life (especially true of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan); they suffer from Combat-related physical and mental health issues and disabilities; they have substance abuse problems that interfere with job retention; and have weak social networks due to problems adjusting to civilian life.

We recently hosted for an extended stay in our home, a veteran, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and several other clinically diagnosed issues. He asked me to document his current VA-issued prescription medications, which I thought would be a piece of cake. He could fit a whole cake in the shopping bag that he dropped on the table which held his medications.

He had several different pain prescriptions, two different mood enhancers, two different heart pills, two different sleeping pills, two different blood pressure meds, and on and on – at least 20 different prescriptions.

I am not doing a hatchet piece here on the VA, but they are apparently not equipped to deliver the kind of patient-centered outcomes that our veterans need – nor can the VA consistently offer a common thread of care through its overwhelmed and often well-meaning medical professionals.

The combination of medications ingested daily by  my guest vet apparently caused negative side effects including three black outs in the last three weeks – leading to an evening in the emergency room for him, this past Sunday night.

I am pleased to say our veteran is now in a non-profit, faith-based residential and work-life development program and is doing well.

Should American vets have  to depend on the services of private entities to take care of their critical post-military-service needs?

The same week that Officer Primo bought those shoes for Hillman, the Senate sent the White House a bill giving nearly 4 million veterans and survivors a 1.7 percent increase in their monthly benefit payments next year. But the VA appears to needs a lot more, including a total overhaul of its mental health patient-care model.

Veterans with mental health and substance abuse disorders are a large, growing, and expensive group to treat among veterans. In a RAND Corporation 2007 report, the per-patient cost for veterans receiving care through the VA for mental illness or substance abuse was $12,337, compared with an average cost of $4,579 for veterans without any mental health diagnoses.

Veteran patients with mental-health challenges represented 15.4% of patients in the VA system, but their care represented almost 33% of all VA healthcare costs.

###

Note: The US Senate Tuesday failed to ratify an international treaty intended to protect the rights of those with disabilities, with conservatives opposed the treaty believing it could weaken US law.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) says signing onto the treaty would have been a positive outcome “for US disabled veterans.”

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About Jim Allen, Founder/Editor, NuVote Reach

Currently serving as Chief Operating Officer of Alejo Media, emerging as one of Washington, D.C.’s most artistic and innovative video production and post-production media companies. Previously, as Director of News and Media Services at the American Institute of Physics, he led the creation of the InsideScience.org news platform, which includes Inside Science TV. He also previously served as Media Director, Energy NOW! and Clean Skies TV and as Special Reports Editor/Media Relations Director at The Hill newspaper. Jim has served in various executive, business development and/or programming roles for a number of media concerns including CBS Radio/Television, Radio One Inc. and the Los Angeles Times. Since 1995, he has been a contributor to the Reporters Notebook news roundtable program on NBC 4 TV, DC. He earned a music scholarship to Delaware State University, a Bachelor of Arts in English/Television Production at Virginia State University and, from 2003-2007, attended Concord University School of Law. His commendations include the Washington, DC Teachers' Union Media Relations Award and shared an American Academy of Nursing National Media Award. Jim also chairs a development task force for the faith-based, non-profit House of Help/City of Hope, founded and led by Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway, which has provided substance abuse, mental health and continuing education programs and transitional housing for tens of thousands of homeless (and battered) women, families and men (including ex-offenders) at its shelter and treatment facilities in Washington, DC and Prince George’s and Charles Counties, MD.
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5 Responses to Shoeless and Homeless My Eye, This Man Needs a Doctor!

  1. I, myself, became homeless in April of 2012. Let me define ‘homeless’ for you. I was evicted. On the day of my eviction, I left my keys on the kitchen counter, a number of my possessions in the apartment, hopped in my car, and drove off with no idea where I’d be sleeping that night, or any other night. I eventually worked my way “up” from my car to staying for a month in a “shelter motel.” I now live in a type of halfway facility from which I am always in danger of being evicted because I still have no regular income and never know if I’ll be able to make rent.

    My homelessness had nothing to do with fiscal irresponsibility, substance abuse, or mental illness (though I was depressed). I suffered a trauma, and as a result, “forgot” to do the little things like pay rent or go to work. By the time I ‘got it together’ again, it was too late. I was a poor academic who had been living one paycheck away from the street, as they say.

    I’d like to add here that there are “sane” people who also refuse aid from social agencies. The machinations of psychopathic “care givers,” and bloodless bureaucracies can strip you of the last of your “humanity,” and leave you little more than a zombie or pretzel-about-to-crack. And the “housing” often leaves something to be desired. People forget that we are considered “trash,” and expected to be grateful for someone putting us in any type of “receptacle.” I will never forget being placed at a “shelter motel” where the room was on the ground floor, with a picture window with no curtains, a soggy mattress, no working lights except a small lamp placed on the floor, and a piece of the door, the only thing separating me from the significant drug-dealing foot traffic in the parking lot, actually missing a piece of wood big enough for a small dog or large squirrel to fit through. Maybe I’m just a “wussie” because I’m a woman… I chose to sleep in my car on the nights I was placed there. I parked in alleys and parking lots, sleeping under boxes and tarps in my back seat. And I did not dare complain about the conditions of the accommodations because that would have been… ingratitude… But back to Mr. Hillman…

    There is no excuse for the way we treat our vets. I always knew they returned to less than stellar living situations, particularly if they were dealing with physical disabilities or emotional traumas; but it wasn’t until I became homeless, myself, and lived in the places they were living that I learned just how awful their lives can be. We have, essentially, placed our vets in the position of coming home to fight yet another war — a “civil war” with vets on one side and everybody else on the other. Though many vets joined the service for the “benefits,” many others served because they loved their country. It absolutely gives me chills to see many of these men and women, after nearly being blown to bits, or injured in other ways, rolling around in wheelchairs after working their way out of less-than-pleasant veterans’ hospitals, flying those little American flags on the back of those chairs. They *still * love their country after all all we’ve taken — and all they’ve given… We have much work to do.

    Thank you, Mr. Allen, for being a part of that work…

  2. Pingback: Update on Jeffrey Hillman — Recipient of Boots From Officer Lawrence DePrimo… « Dark Acts Bible: Glass Half Empty, Base Cracked…

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