The number of homeless female veterans is on the rise, and the Department of Veteran Affairs isn't adequately prepared to handle it.
In four years, the number of homeless veteran women more than doubled -- rising to 3,328 in 2010 from 1,380 in 2006, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
But even as more veteran women are becoming homeless, the VA still isn't prepared to deal with it, the report found. Nearly a quarter of VA Medical Center coordinators surveyed for the report said they didn't have plans to temporarily house homeless women while those women wait for housing in other programs aimed at housing homeless veterans.
The VA "does not have sufficient data about the population and needs of women veterans to plan effectively for increases in their numbers as servicemembers return from Iraq and Afghanistan," the authors wrote in the report. "Further, without improved services, women -- including those with children and those who have experienced military sexual trauma -- remain at risk of homelessness and experiencing further abuse."
The report also found that nearly two-thirds of homeless female veterans are between the ages of 40 and 59 years old, many of them living with children. That's an especially large problem, seeing as 60 percent of the VA's Grant and Per Diem Programs that serve homeless women -- an effort that gives community agencies funding to provide veterans with services -- don't house children.
Overall, homelessness among veterans dropped 12 percent during the year-long period ended in January 2011, the Obama administration said last month. Still, the issue of homelessness among veterans looms large. There are more than 67,000 veterans living on the streets and veterans are 50 percent more likely to be homeless than the average American.
In addition, homeless veterans are more likely to die on the streets than their non-veteran counterparts and tend to remain homeless for longer periods of time, according to another recent study.
Veterans are also having a tougher time than ordinary Americans navigating the job market once they return home. The veteran unemployment rate was 13.1 percent in December compared to the national jobless rate of 8.5 percent, according to the Department of Labor.
The situation is especially dire for young veterans: One in three veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 is unemployed.