Published June 15, 2011
More veterans than ever are seeking help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. From 2002 to 2009, 1 million troops left active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nearly half come in for VA services and 48% of that group are diagnosed with mental health problems.
The Committee for the Families of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans, a grass-roots organization in New York's Hudson Valley, is working to help local veterans who need assistance getting back on their feet with jobs, bills and housing. Ray McCarthy, founder of the committee, tells Fox News, "The American public thinks everything is fine when they come home. Everything isn’t fine when they come home."
With an increased number of vets returning home suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and other injuries, there's a growing demand for aid.
Will Knibbs, 28-year-old Army veteran who served overseas from 2001-2005, returned home to the U.S. and quickly found himself falling behind with bills and rent. Knibbs explains, "It's like bad momentum. If you are already late for things, then you know, you are going to receive fees if you are late, and those things add up. It's like negative momentum, and I was definitely anxious, and I felt like, I have things I worked pretty hard for, and I didn't want to lose those things."
That's when he says he reached out for help, and called Ray McCarthy's group. Knibbs says committee members sat down with him and went over his financial obligations and helped him plan for the future, adding, "They got me out of the hole I was in, and it relieved a lot of stress for me -- not having to worry if I'm going to have to pay my rent and things like that, and just a big weight was lifted."
Not all returning vets are stabilized as quickly as Knibbs, which is why the committee is moving forward with some of its plans to build transitional housing for Hudson Valley vets who are on the verge of becoming homeless.
With the help of local real estate developer Ken Kearney, as well as grants and donations, a working plan to develop 56 acres of land in Monticello into a community of housing and farmland where these vets can live, train and work is under way. Darren Wiseman, who is on the board of directors for the committee tells Fox, "The idea is to start an organic farm. We're looking into hydroponic farming. We are looking to fish farming and this would also provide training and some jobs on the facility."
While the entire plan will take years to develop, the group's initial goal is to provide some housing for vets by the end of the year. "Our veterans have done everything for us," McCarthy says, "So now it's time to make sure that they're taken care of."
To learn more about The Committee for the Families of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans, visit www.familiesofwarvets.org.