Health Care of Homeless Veterans: Why Are Some Individuals Falling Through the Safety Net?

It is important to understand the needs of those veterans who are homeless. We describe characteristics of homeless male veterans and factors associated with needing VA benefits from a two-city, community survey of 531 homeless adults. Overall, 425 were male, of whom 127 were veterans (29.9%). Significantly more veterans had a chronic medical condition and two or more mental health conditions. Only 35.1% identified a community clinic for care compared with 66.8% of non-veterans (P < .01); 47.7% identified a shelter-based clinic and 59.1% reported needing VA benefits. Those reporting this need were less likely to report a medical comorbidity (58.7% vs 76.9%; P = .04), although 66.7% had a mental health comorbidity and 82.7% met Diagnostic Screening Manual (DSM)-IIIR criteria for substance abuse/dependence. They were also significantly more likely to access shelter clinics compared with veterans without this need. Homeless veterans continue to have substantial health issues. Active outreach is needed for those lacking access to VA services. (Authors)

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Journal of Internal Medicine