WASHINGTON – Members of a House subcommittee heard testimony Monday about how tens of thousands of American veterans face food insecurity once they return to civilian life and about efforts to combat the problem.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to not get enough food compared to the general population.
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“They find themselves facing choices between being hungry, being able to afford fuel to drive to one of the available food locations or providing food while maneuvering through a challenging job market,” said Anthony Stewart, CEO of US4Warriors.
The testimony indicated that with the improvement of martial medicine, more warriors could survive their combat wounds.
But it also means that younger veterans suffer work-limiting injuries once they return to civilian life, which can limit their income and access to food.
“Between 2005 and 2019, veterans were expected to be 7.4% more likely to live in a food-insecure household than those without,” said Matthew Rabbit, an economist at the USDA. “When an individual is exposed to healthy nutritious foods, they are at greater risk of negative physical and mental health outcomes.”
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The Department of Veterans Affairs told lawmakers that veterans are now being screened for food insecurity during primary care visits.
If they are reported not getting enough to eat, that veteran is referred to a social worker and dietitian.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the department has performed more than 10 million of these checks since 2017.
“We are currently working to obtain information on veterans who test positive for food insecurity, looking at data points such as age, diagnosis, years of service, and location,” said Dr. Kristen Going, National Food Security Program coordinator at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “The new office is focused on screening and intervention with plans to introduce pilots who view the value of each screening as a tool to reach more veterans.”
The certification also indicated that veterans are more likely to experience food insecurity than veterans, and that veterans in rural areas are more likely to experience food insecurity than those who live in cities.
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