April 16, 2009

Do more to reach homeless veterans

The Baltimore Sun gave important coverage to a critical housing program for veterans in the article "Struggling veterans find hope in program" (April 13).

The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program can provide a rent subsidy to veterans that allows them to pay approximately 30 percent of their income for rent. This program is a major tool to end homelessness. But, as the article notes, veterans still comprise up to one-third of the homeless population nationally.

And according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless veterans in Maryland increased from 3,100 in 2005 to 4,000 in 2007, giving Maryland the dubious distinction of having more homeless veterans than any of the surrounding states or the District of Columbia.

VASH vouchers will help reduce these numbers, but as the article also noted, the federal government has provided only 105 vouchers to Baltimore County and 70 to Cecil County. This is a mere drop in the bucket compared with the need.

Other benefits can also help veterans move into housing. Some veterans may be eligible for service-connected disability compensation, which can pay them more than $2,600 a month, depending on their disability rating, and can more than cover the cost of housing.

But barriers to getting these benefits can be extensive, including challenges collecting needed documentation of military service and lengthy waits exacerbated by improper denials of benefits veterans have earned.

Indeed, according to the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, only 44 percent of veterans in Maryland receive assistance in applying for benefits, which contributes to Maryland veterans having one of the lowest rates of compensation in the country.

We hope that expanded outreach efforts by the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs will ensure that more veterans are aware of the benefit programs that can help them.

Antonia K. Fasanelli, Baltimore

Justin Browne, Ellicott City

The writers are, respectively, the executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project Inc. and the co-chairman of the Maryland State Bar Association's Military Law Committee.

Mouthpiece for left ignores real venom

Media Matters is a mouthpiece for the left and hardly a fair-minded media watchdog, and the column by Media Matters' Eric Boehlert about Glenn Beck was ridiculous ("Airing a dangerous paranoia," Commentary, April 14).

He goes from complaining about Glenn Beck to indicting the whole Fox News operation. But you won't find a Media Matters piece that chastised anybody who called former President George W. Bush or former Vice President Dick Cheney criminals or compared them to Adolf Hitler.

And Mr. Boehlert never accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or other leading Democrats of inciting people to riot or of leading someone to contemplate assassinating Mr. Bush with their constant hateful speech bashing the former president.

Reading his column about Mr. Beck scaring people into bad activity was a huge waste of time.

Jim Roberts, Woodstock

Arming ship crews would stop pirates

After the recent hijacking of a U.S.-flagged ship off Somalia, I think maybe it is time to start giving the crews of ships in that area basic infantry weapons and to train them in the use of arms ("Shots end crisis," April 13).

A few handguns in the hands of airline pilots could have changed the course of 9/11.

And having armed personnel on U.S. ships could be a safe, cheap deterrent to piracy - just as laws that allow people to carry concealed weapons curb crime in states that have enacted them.

Bernard Walker, Baltimore

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