New York

Report shows New York veterans are struggling financially

Veterans Day is an opportunity for us to thank a soldier for their time serving and protecting our country, but a new report suggests we should do more.

“What we’re seeing is veterans in New York state are struggling financially,” said Claire Reid, United Way’s chief impact officer in the Greater Capital Region.

In 2019, there were more than 640,000 veterans in New York, according to United For ALICE, UWGCR’s national research partner. Of these veterans, 7% lived below the federal poverty line.

“This gives us real concern to focus on how to create the conditions for veterans to thrive,” Reid said.

The data shows that another 23% had financial difficulties and lived in households earning above the federal poverty line but not enough to afford basic needs.

“In upstate New York, for example, a one-person household needs to make about $32,000 a year,” Reid said. “That’s just to make just a viable budget.”

And minorities appear to represent most people in this category, with only 27% of white veterans falling into this category.

“Forty-six percent of Black veterans and 47 percent of Native American veterans and 37 percent of Latino or Latina veterans are below the ALICE threshold,” Reid said.

Those numbers could be even worse were it not for the various resources and community organizations available to veterans.

“These men and women sacrificed everything for us,” said Michelle Viola Straight, associate executive director of the Veterans & Community Housing Coalition.

The organization provides housing and support services to homeless military veterans and their families in seven counties. Viola Straight said veterans often struggle financially from the start.

“When you join the service, you swear to serve your country, you go in as a private, and as a private you make $13,000 a year,” she said.

Add to that what happens after a veteran leaves the service.

“The transition process is not easy,” she said. “And many fall through the cracks.”

Proponents leave many in the dark, warning that these numbers are likely higher than the report’s findings.

“These numbers are increasing every day,” said Viola Straight. “Right now, female veterans are the highest homeless.”

Another area where veterans struggle is in higher education. The report shows that 62% of New York City veterans over the age of 25 do not have a college degree.

“In order for you to put in your GI bill and maneuver it, you need assistance, you need someone who knows how it’s done,” said Viola Straight.

While the report may be a somber reminder of the hurdles our veterans community faces every day, it also highlights what is working and what can be optimized.

“It’s very important to understand the specific experiences,” Reid said. “Because if we don’t do that, the programming can be kind of average, generic and not really understanding certain experiences.”

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