A U.S. House Veterans Affairs subcommittee met Monday in Oceanside, where they were told the high cost of living is pushing many veterans and local service members to go without food.
The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that about 11% of veterans live in households where they are sometimes hungry, and many do not have access to the services provided.
“The shame, stigma, and fear of admitting you can’t provide enough food for your family keeps a lot of people from responding,” said Anahid Brakke, president of the San Diego Hunger Coalition.
Food lawyers tell U.S. House committee veterans and soldiers are hungry
The San Diego Food Bank serves approximately 45,000 veterinarians and local members of the military. The number has increased by more than 6,000 families since the pandemic.
“Our numbers demonstrate that food insecurity among active duty families and vets is a serious but hidden issue that has been exacerbated by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current inflationary environment,” said Casey Castillo, CEO of the San Diego Food Bank. .
The Veterans Health Administration has begun screening clients for food insecurity, as part of an effort to eliminate hunger among veterans. Nationally, veterans who suffer from PTSD or have a disability are more likely to experience food insecurity. Female veterans are also particularly vulnerable. The committee was told that the whole process needed to be revised so that more hungry veterans could benefit from food programs.
“It’s not just about raising awareness and getting information out to people. It’s about what happens when they start that application to submit it and go through the registration process,” Brakke said. “It’s outrageous. It’s too complicated. And these are all things that can be fixed with federal legislation.
Lawyers said the process isn’t just complicated. Rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, sometimes called food stamps, state that veterans may not qualify unless they are 100% disabled.
U.S. Representative Barry Moore, (R-Alabama) said on a recent trip to San Diego that someone who delivered the pizza to his door was an active-duty Marine, trying to earn extra money during its off-peak hours.
The committee discussed reforms that included exempting the basic housing allowance that most active-duty troops receive from the income requirements for food stamps.
U.S. Representative Mike Levin chairs the veterans affairs subcommittee. The VA is committed to ending food insecurity. Levin is co-sponsoring a bill to turn VA efforts into law.