I recently was forwarded a job position for a Homeless Veteran Social Worker position with the VA in Myrtle Beach SC that touts the yearly salary of just about $100,000 a year. I thought that this must be an important job and had great responsibilities, but then I had to go through dealing with A 57 Year old Female Army Veteran who is currently 20% disabled and is putting in for further disability (i.e. PTSD/MST) and I wonder how can these people be paid for NOT doing their job. Let me articulate what has happened to this female.
Former Army female Veteran has been homeless for over 18 months and has been in and out of the VA Veteran Domicile for housing. Mostly she has been down in the Atlanta area to be close to mass transit to get her from Ft. Mac to Decatur VAMC.
On May 5th, I get a call from the VA social workers , initials SN and SR, that the VA in Atlanta is not doing intake on Homeless Veterans and can we help her. First of all we refer her to United Way SSVF program but we were told that the $2M SSVF grant that they had been administering will end on June 30, 2020, as they did not renew the program. Okay upon calling back we agree to have her sent up her for our program to help her with housing until she gets her VA housing voucher
May 27th we escalate the fact that VA VASH caseworker, has never called her or I back after leaving multiple, multiple calls to his office and finally give up when his VM is full. We subsequently escalated this lack of follow-up and this caseworker was removed from this case and a new caseworker has been assigned.
During our normal Cherokee County Homeless Veterans intake process we found out that the homeless female Veteran had several issues that we were surprised were not made aware to us from the VA social worker to include the following:
• She has claims for PTSD/MST to be filed
• Her current 20% VA disability check has been frozen for several months due to a flag that the VA has put on her file for an outstanding warrant in the State of GA for a misdemeanor of having a false address on her driver’s license due to her being homeless
• Her husband died a couple of years and she is owed back Social Security
• She had not yet received her COVID stimulus check
I would think that paid social workers and case managers would want to help out, but we have found out the answer we got was not the case.
Well today things are different, thanks to a bunch of volunteers from the American Legion who run a Homeless Veteran Program. Here is how:
Housing – Since the VA sent her to our program we have paid over $3,000 and climbing for putting her up in a local Motel 6 using the American Legion and Cherokee County Homeless Veterans corporate rate. We as of yet do not know when she will get a housing voucher, but she may not need one based on the following. Last note she is being told the voucher may be ready in a couple of more weeks. It has already been 8.
VA Claims – We have worked with the local office of the Ga Department of Veteran Services and have submitted her claims to the VA even though we are working remotely.
SS death benefits – upon moving her up here we immediately put her in touch with Crystal Gilbert of Congressman Loudermilk’ team and she started working the Social Security Administration to understand the issues of her not getting her husband’s death benefits. Not to go into that process, today we were informed that the SS Administration has approved her to get her husband’s SS benefits and she is now awaiting a significant check for the back pay on this.
Lastly we had reached out to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s CID office to check on any outstanding warrants against her. According to them they could not see any but we were told to reach out to the State of Georgia Probation office and check with them. We put a call into the State Probation Office and were informed that a year ago a warrant for this female Veteran was to have been dismissed on 1/21/2019 but for some reason it was not. We were later told that the female Veteran needed to make an appearance for the dismissal, but since she was homeless and could not be contacted about the appearance is did not happen. The warrant dismissal has since taken place and currently her home of record is the American Legion Post 45 in Canton, Georgia.
Lastly, she did not get her stimulus check from the Federal Government and we have been working with Congressman Loudermilk’s staff to get her the check.
The net of this story is that as a Service Officer for the American Legion it is our duty to help our fellow Veterans in need and to interact with outside agencies as their advocate. In our duty to help these homeless Veterans we need to listen to what they tell us on what they have been through and what help they need. Do not assume that someone else has done the work as TRUST and Follow through are what they need most as many of the homeless, not just Veterans have been told that someone would help them and then not follow through. This female Veteran interacted with over 15 VA personnel during her journey of being homeless. Not one of them took it upon themselves to really get involved to get her the help she needed. This is what the American Legion stands for – taking care of our Veterans.