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How a local levy, up for renewal on Aug. 16, has helped struggling veterans

Proposition 1, to renew the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy, is on voter ballots mailed this week. Veterans using resources from the 2005 levy have poignant stories to tell.

Family Reunion

Family Reunion Courtesy of King County Community and Human Services

Jim Beal with some of his art work, standing beside Congressman Dave Reichert at a Veterans Resource Fair sponsored by Reichert

Jim Beal with some of his art work, standing beside Congressman Dave Reichert at a Veterans Resource Fair sponsored by Reichert Courtesy of James Beal

Army PFC Jim Beal on a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam, 1972

Army PFC Jim Beal on a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam, 1972 Courtesy of James Beal

Army Sgt. Jerome Patterson described returning to the U.S. after two tours as a sniper in Iraq: "When I got back in '07, I never really was told by family that I had changed quite a bit and needed to go to the V.A. and get checked out." But a concerned friend contacted Joel Estey, project manager at the King County Veterans Program (KCVP), and Estey contacted Patterson. "He started taking me to the V.A. hospital and I got my claim put in and got treated for my back. I was blown up in Iraq and have a lower back injury."

Patterson now receives PTSD therapy, too, at KCVP partner agency Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation. "No charge," he told me. "For me, it’s hard to get a job. I can’t be around large numbers of people and anyway I was a recon sniper and there’s not a lot of call for that [kind of work] here. I get really anxious, on edge, always watching people. My heart starts beating fast, and I hyperventilate. I tried to kind of insert myself in more of a radical way last year and went to a concert. The pyrotechnics on the stage freaked me out."

Voters on the Aug. 16 primary will decide whether to renew the levy, which is on the ballot as King County Proposition 1. The measure calls for an additional regular property tax at a rate of up to five cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That's the same rate as approved in 2005. The cost for the owner of a house worth $340,000, the median price here in March 2011, is estimated to be $17 per year, raising $13 million annually if the levy is approved.

Since 2005, the Veterans and Human Services Levy has let KCVP extend its outreach and agency partnerships to provide veterans and their families with counseling, urgent financial aid, housing referrals, employment training, legal support, and help with securing federal benefits. During 2010, for example, the levy paid for 17,482 emergency and transitional bed nights.

The levy's funds are split 50-50 between veterans' services and general health and human services.

So, Patterson is also getting treated for a drinking problem. His recovery is progressing. "My V.A. counselor said I’m way less on edge and better with people around me." Still, a sense of isolation pervades his life. "I miss the camaraderie of being around the same kind of guys I was."

Can Patterson's PTSD be cured? "They say I’ll never get rid of it but learn to control it. Been seeing (my therapist) at Valley for about a year now, and she says I’ve come a long way. When I first got home I stayed with my mom, and she could hear me screaming from down the hall at night. I don’t think I scream in my sleep anymore, but I'm not sure."

The hours of personal attention from Estey as he shepherded Patterson to appointments, ongoing guidance for Patterson from KCVP staff, and sustained PTSD counseling would have been impossible without the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy.

Why do recently returned veterans need such personalized care? Though they're not demonized as were soldiers who fought in Vietnam, and though re-entering civilian life after fighting a war has never been easy, it's especially hard for new vets to feel at home again in America. The vast majority of Americans live their lives at a great personal and emotional distance from today's wars and warriors.

Only 1 percent of the population has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with 10-11 percent during World War II and the Vietnam conflict, when nine out of ten Americans personally knew at least one member of the armed forces involved. My uncle, leaving the Army to return home to New York in 1945, could be confident of running into veterans or close friends of vets when he stopped in some bar, even if they didn't talk about their service. Today, we don't even get regular news stories about our current wars, in part because they seem so shapeless and endless, making it hard for reporters to discern compelling story lines.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Jul 29, 7:50 a.m. Inappropriate

I think it is kind of reprehensible the way "veterans" are being used/invoked to gain support for, yet another, tax increase and how their sympathetic cause is bundled with those the public might be less willing to support. So... "the levy's funds are split 50-50 between veterans' services and general health and human services..." Then how come 99% of the article focuses on veterans and their legitimate plight and has no mention of where the other half of the levy money will go (beyond the terse 50-50 line noted)? Do our myriad Social Justice activist non-profits stand to profit off the veteran's condition? BTW... Kitsap County has also identified veterans as a poll-friendly cause with which to tie general tax increases (maybe The Party has identified this as a Best Management Practice). Kitsap County commissioners, likewise, point to homeless veterans to justify a levy request which, if approved, will see half the money siphoned off to government business as usual.

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Jul 29, 9:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Thanks, Judy, for putting human faces on this huge issue; the responsibility of all of us to support women and men who return home with difficult survival issues because they faithfully served us (our country) in these two war efforts. All of these special levy funds go to outreach efforts for our service persons. The 50% used by human service organizations has to go to veteran outreach - they are not "siphoned off to government business as usual". We need these extra funs because of the increasingly larger number of vets who need help - after all our two wars create "above and beyond" needs; in addition to the underfunded services for veterans of all wars. If we send them into harms way; ask them to serve in terrible circumstances; risk life and limb - and don't support and care for them when they come home - shame on us! I voted for the levy and am voting for continuing the levy; willing to pay the tax and encouraging all residents to do the same! - Rev. Marvin Eckfeldt, Kent WA

marveck

Posted Fri, Jul 29, 11:35 a.m. Inappropriate

I really feel sorry for people like BlueLight: what a miserly way to view the world.

Posted Fri, Jul 29, 12:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Bluelight, Veterans Services ARE Human Services. It takes a human services system to address the many different impacts and challenges that our veterans--and their families--face upon their return to civilian life. By supporting both direct services for veterans (50%) and other human services programs in King County (50%), this Levy makes it possible for our vets, their families, and others in need to access services that wouldn't otherwise be available.

For example, some of the funds from the Human Services half of the Levy are dedicated to homelessness programs, such as the Landlord Liaison Project (LLP). Using market-based strategies, LLP partners with private landlords to house people who would otherwise be homeless. LLP is successful because of the scale it is able to achieve; it's a great program for people who are homeless, including the many vets that have benefited from it.

This Levy isn't about exploiting public sympathy for veterans issues. With veterans as its focus, it is about using a very small levy ($17/year for the average KC homeowner) to support an array of veterans services and human services that strengthen the system of support in our communities.

Posted Fri, Jul 29, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

"Do our myriad Social Justice activist non-profits stand to profit off the veteran's condition?"

By the responses here, I believe the answer is "yes".

And Nathan, when discussing "a very small levy" the Party recommends using an analogy such as "three lattes" or "one large pizza".

BlueLight

Posted Fri, Jul 29, 6:08 p.m. Inappropriate

BlueLight - ALL human service agencies providing services are non-profit. Of course there are some costs to extend and provide the services but they are not like our capitalistic for-profit business where HUGE profits go to super wealthy corporate executives! Overhead is kept to a bare minimum in order to provides services to more people. Please check-out for yourself and learn about the world of our exceptional human service agencies in Seattle and King County who provide needed services to all of our community. I wish you could lead with your heart rather than your skeptical head.

marveck

Posted Fri, Jul 29, 10:53 p.m. Inappropriate

This levy is a fraud hideing behind vetrans issues, with only 50 cents on a dollar going to its intended purpose! the other 50cents goes to general welfare for non vetrans. The VA has far more experance delealing with vetrans needs with greater resources

USMC 1967-1971

Posted Sat, Jul 30, 1:27 p.m. Inappropriate

Once again the failure of our social network is shown. There should be no problem with veterans if we had a decent care system for those who need it. A decent national health care project would cover the medical problems for these folks.
We send these people to fight unmoral wars again and again. When are we going to stop this madness. My wife has a cedar chest carved my a nest door neighbor, a Marine Corp Medal Of Honor winner in Korea. Suicide. Our greatest hero of WWII, Audie Murphy, slept with a gun under his pillow every night. When our present heroes are dischrged they use their education benefits in poor for profit colleges and get nothing for it. Plenty of profit for the war profiteers at a horrible cost to us. The folks wo make the money in DEFENSE industries seldom serve or pay the price. We must stop this waste of money and our young people.
Keep up the good work Judy. I know you come by this from your great work for the homeless and mental problems.
John Lay

Morro

Posted Sun, Jul 31, 12:58 p.m. Inappropriate

CitizenCane, please check your facts. ALL of the levy is to provide DIRECT services to veterans only! That is what the contracts state and that is what the non-profits are required to provide. There is NO 50% for veterans and 50% for "general welfare for non-veterans!

marveck

Posted Tue, Aug 2, 4:23 p.m. Inappropriate

For once I happen to agree with BlueLight. There is no way that a VA levy should be a local taxpayer problem. Congress got us into these wars, didn't fund the war or the VA and now we are being asked to pay the price? Give me a break. What just happened in congress? No new taxes on corporations which benefit from the safety these soldiers provide to the 10,000 mile supply chain? No taxes on the wealthy who run those corps?

Make no mistake, these guys deserve the best medical care that is possible. They were used and now are being foisted on the middle class.

GaryP

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