Fake Homeless Veterans: What Do You Do?

homeless vet

I spotted him from across a busy intersection near the White House. Surrounded by bags and backpacks, he held a creased cardboard rectangle with the words “Iraq Combat VET” scrawled in Sharpie. He was homeless veteran begging for money.

It never occurred to me not to stop and talk to him. I pictured him easily as one of the sailors in my husband’s squadron, roaming the hangar in coveralls and reeking of jet fuel.

Even though I haven’t been a “CO wife” for years, that get-‘er-done instinct kicked in. I was confident that with a few phone calls, I could help connect him with the right resources.


Sign of the Times

I towered above him as he sat cross-legged on the cement. Once I crouched down so we could be at eye level, his wary expression softened.

I told him about a place that helps vets get health care, but he said he was already covered. “What I need is a job,” he said forcefully. He showed me one of the books splayed spine-up next to him, a paperback of essays by Iraq vets, and mentioned that he’s a writer. Four other books by veterans peeked out of his backpack and rested on top of the bags beside him.

Strange that he’d be reading so many books on the same topic at one time, but I reasoned that since he was homeless, all of his belongings traveled with him.

“You see a vet, you give him my number.”

I texted a friend — the Executive Director of Code of Support and a former Army wife. A few years ago I signed on to the organization’s Code, which asks for a commitment to share the responsibility for service members in need. One of the five pledges is “As they have sworn to defend me and protect our country, so will I pledge to support them in every way that I can, and to avoid any action that would increase their risk.”

I knew this alluded to sending troops into battle without the necessary resources to protect them, but the sight of a vet begging on a street corner seemed qualify as standing in harm’s way.

“You see a vet, you give him my number,” she texted back. Her reflexive generosity made me feel bad that I’d walked away without even asking his name.

Could this be fake?

The next week he was at the same street corner, surrounded by the same paperbacks. Props, I thought.

Then felt ashamed at my own cynicism. I crouched down to talk and got his email address, his name, and a fast-forwarded version of what landed him on the street, though there was still no mention his military stint.

I gave him $4, which emptied out my wallet, and invited him to a literary conference beginning that very evening on “writing the war experience.” Something flashed in his eyes (gratitude, I assumed), but he told me he couldn’t make it.

Secretly, I was relieved. I wanted to be like my friend who responded, “You see a vet, you give him my number. “ But it was going to be hard to explain to my husband why I was showing up with a stranger who smelled like wet socks, vet or not.

Over dinner that night, I told the story to my husband and a friend, who listened with identical polite half-smiles.

Then they were gentle. Together, they pointed out how the details of the guy’s story didn’t add up. Due to the Stolen Valor Act (struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012) people are aware that others do fake military service. Still, the chance that he could be a vet – albeit a vet with an unusual story – spurred my sense of urgency.

The unwritten contract between civilians and veterans.

It is immoral to walk past a former service member who’s hungry or homeless, a turnaround that runs counter to the unwritten contract between civilians and those who pledge to protect them.

Still. Something about those paperbacks planted a seed of doubt even before our dinner. Once I got home, I plugged the guy’s name into Google, which turned up links to protests he led on behalf of the anarchist movement, rambling articles opposing “the hierarchy,” and accounts of his ongoing activism against various federal policies. I found his LinkedIn profile. More of the same. And no military service.

But that flash in his eyes when I invited him to the veterans’ writing conference had felt like an acknowledgement of kinship.  Had over a decade of living in the bubble of the military community, where people look out for each other no-questions-asked, knocked my internal compass out of whack? It spun unhinged, arms akimbo, which was exactly how I felt.

Fake homeless veterans shake the civilian/service member bond.

I’ve spoken up since the start of the Iraq war on why the military and civilian communities must understand each other better, and how the gulf between the two reinforces the idea that military service in America is for “someone else.”

Over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve watched that gulf shrink as more civilians have been directly affected by the conflict, either because they knew someone serving or because they’d made the effort to understand war’s impact on the military and military families. Service members also seem less dismissive of civilians – more willing to admit that Americans can do their part in different ways. Each side was moving toward a more intimate understanding of the other.

But a self-identified anarchist who passes himself off as a vet perverts that long sought-after intimacy – and that’s what shook me.

Weeks later, after Veterans Day has come and gone, I still see the fake vet across the street from the Metro, surrounded by paperbacks, holding his sign.

I’m angrier each time, but mostly at myself. It’s a tremendous effort not to feel duped, embarrassed by my eagerness to help one of our own. He and I stare past each other as I cross the intersection, and I remind myself of what, deep down, I knew all along: that for vets, signs of distress will never be as obvious as words scrawled on a creased piece of cardboard.

Alison Buckholtz is author of Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War and a contributor to Stories Around the Table:  Laughter Wisdom and Strength in Military Life. Her articles and essays have been published in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Slate.com, Real Simple, Parenting, Washingtonian Magazine, Salon.com and many other publications.

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  • anonc

    While I don’t believe that anyone should claim to be a veteran if they are not, I do believe that all homeless people deserve help and compassion, veteran or civilian, anarchist or not. Perhaps you could help him find resources for the general homeless population?

    • Miguel Cervantes

      Some homeless people do deserve compassion but many do not. Many of the homeless out there are there of their own device, criminals, drop-outs, etc, and just because you are a “vet” doesn’t necessarily mean you are deserving of help; many vets are crappy civilians because the were crappy soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors, or Coasties….Just saying.

      • anonc

        So according to you, criminals and dropouts deserve no compassion? That is horrible. “Oh, you dropped out of school? Guess your entire life deserves to be completly miserable! Sorry!”

        • David

          You missed the point entirely you moron

        • conradswims

          Define compassion! And compassion for who? The down and outers parents? Wife? Children? The hardworking taxpayer? The folks that work their whole life to help others who do not use that help to get back on their feet? Who are you feeling your compassion for? What you may want to think about is this. With the right to succeed is also the right to fail. That is what is called freedom.

      • SFC Ham

        I Agree, in my 25 years of military service I had seen many soldiers kicked out after only a few months in the military because they could not do the job or were discharged because of dishonorable service and I bet many of them are the ones you see who will stand on a street corner begging for money saying that they are a veteran and talking like thay are some kind of herro.

      • You and the others who agree with you all sound like great Christians.

    • Doorgunner6667

      Our Sunday school teacher is a retired Houston police officer. We talked about this same topic and he said to offer food instead of money. He told us most of the beggars work for someone and splits their money with them. He said if you look close around his AO you’ll see a car, sometimes new. I go to theVA here in Houston and there are dozens of them. A while back I was on my way the VA. I stopped at a stop sign and beside me was a car with the hood up. I asked the guy if I could help. He told me he was on his way to the hospital because his son was in a serious accident and he had run out of gas and could I help him out with a few dollars for gas. He seemed sincere so I gave him $5. I made my turn to the VA and got to thinking about something he said so I made a u-turn to watch him. Another car pulled up gave him some more money. I remembered he had said someone was walking to a gas station with a gas can but the can wasn’t very big. He pointed to the left direction where the person went. Where I had parked was a station about 200 yards away. After he got some more money from the car I turned and pulled up beside him. I told him that was a pretty good scam, but if he didn’t leave I was going to get the police. He asked me if I wanted my money back, and I told him “No “, just move on,which he did.

      • Hooksdown

        Beggers working for someone. Sounds a bit like a pimp/prostitue arrangement.

        • Doorgunner6667

          It’s not that. It’s like a slum dog business. Recently I’ve seen male and female working together across the street from the VA. The women look like they are pregnant, but I’ve seen that scam before. There may be some legit people begging, but most of the ones I’ve seen have the same words on their sign, and besides that they look healthy enough to get some kind of a real job. But I’m telling you they make good money on those corners. It must be decent money or why would they stand out there from dawn to dusk? I don’t give them any money. I’m on 100% disability and I earned that in Vietnam and then I worked 40 years until I retired so I don’t owe them anything. If they don’t have anything to eat how can they afford $5 packs of cigarettes? That’s all I have to say about that. It makes my blood boil when I see them.

    • Nope

      I would bet he has a car parked close by and has a home. He can mark more money being a liar and beggar than actually getting a job.

  • anon

    The conclusion of this story is very confusing IMO. Based on his choice of reading material, a cursory Google search, an an anecdotal military history from him that you don’t even bother to summarize here, you know for certain he’s not a veteran? Even if the brevity is just to get to the point and not intentionally, you do a disservice to veterans with your conclusion because you looked upon him with suspicion instead of compassion. How are military and civilian supposed to bridge the gap of compassion and understanding when the military looks upon its own like this? Do you do this to every homeless vet you encounter?

  • Teresa

    Likely he is not homeless. Studies have shown that most of the beggars on the street are fake. Recently one here was supposedly pregnant. Turns out she had put pillow under her shirt and the child with her wasn’t even hers either and she drove away in a luxury car. I won’t give money any more. I hate lies.

    • Hooksdown

      About the only street people to whom I donate are those with red buckets and ringing bells. And, I’ve had my doubts about a couple of those.

    • Wayne

      Where i work there is a lady who drives around the parking lots in a Tahoe asking for money.

  • millionlafs

    While exiting a concert in SLC Utah one evening, a worn and haggard looking man sat on a concrete wall, asking for donations to help him. He told everyone he was a veteran of Viet Nam. Concerned, I took the time to talk with him so as to find a way to really help him. In our conversation, he told me he was 40 years old and had been on the streets for ten years. Wait? WHAT? 40???!!! When I told him the war had ended 38 years ago, he told me to go away and leave him alone. As a Viet Nam Era Veteran, I was outraged. Soon, the whole crowd saw this man as a fake and shamed him into leaving. I watched as he ran down the street and climbed into a relatively new Ford 350 4X4 truck and drove away. Hell!! I couldn’t even justify buying that expensive of a truck! I am VERY apprehensive now about giving money to individuals on the street. I think the best way is to donate our hard earned money to the shelters and let them provide the assistance many true homeless people need.

    • Namike

      I completely agree with you here. The fact is, there are so many people posing, that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between them and the ones in real dire need. So to avoid that, I donate to the actual, proven organizations so they can spend my money without scamming me.

    • Hooksdown

      Time flies, when you’re having fun. But you’re right about donating to the facility that does the helping. The Better Business Bureau has a site that rates many charities, if you want to check some of them out.

      Give.org, if you’re interested.

    • Leon Suchorski

      That is Mormon country up there, but even so, when I was in the Marines in the late 60s, we had two Mormons in our outfit. We tried to convince them that according to their beliefs, they should not be in the Marines, but the told us that they felt that it was something that they had to do. At this point, they had been in over one year already.

    • David Owens

      Thank you for posting, I too experienced a fraud Vietnam vet some 14 years ago, I talked with him and figured he would have had to have been 8 years when in Vietnam, when I said that to him he told me to get the F– away from him. I now only donate to shelters through the Salvation Army.

    • Sandra

      I’ve seen same panhandling type. My husband died of service caused injury. Now I look for auto near by!

  • Anon

    This “homeless” vet has an email address *and* a LinkedIn account? And he’s head of an anarchist movement? Forget it. And folks forget – some actual vets choose to live on the street. Some because they don’t want to be tied down to a permanent spot. Some because of untreated mental health issues. Some because they are angry at the world and would rather do that than be tied to a job. I personally go buy them food…you’d be surprised (or maybe not) how many turn that down. They don’t want food. They don’t want a job (otherwise that guy would’ve jumped at the chance to go to that conference). They want your cash to support their habit. And before you jump on me citing “lack of compassion” let me assure you veterans are my life, and a large part of that is veterans court. You learn all the excuses, all the lies…and those who actually want help get it.

    • GunnyGil

      EXACTLY Anon. How the hell does a homeless vet have an active email address and why would he/she pay for internet access when they need a roof over their head and food. The fact that this gal got an email address would have made me tell this poser exactly where to get off and the next call would have been to call the local law. I am a combat vet myself Nam and my work with various vet organizations is homeless veterans and trying to get closed bases turned over to the VA for additional treatment and housing for the true homeless vets. Another thing of her post is the fact that he said he had his benefits with VA taken care of. Without a physical address a vet can NOT get care from VA except for “stand downs” that normally are once or twice per year. One can not get VA compensation without an electronic deposit account, just like Social Security and probably soon IRS returns

      • Gweny

        Email addresses are free to obtain and access from libraries and social service agencies that provide free computer labs for the homeless. They also allow the homeless to use their address and collect their mail for them. I know because I work at a social service agency. I don’t hand out cash but do hand out a one page flyer with addresses and services provided by local social services agencies and food banks. Hundreds of millions of tax payer money is provided to these agencies and there are ample services for the homeless. We just need to make them aware of what’s available.

    • Choppy

      Email addresses are easy to get even if you’re homeless. Homeless people haunt most public libraries during the day and with free internet access anyone can set up an email address in minutes.

  • Wendell

    It seems like all his books were just props. When I read the part about his E-mail address I was convinced he was a fake. I have never given anything to a person who advertises that are homeless and probably never will.

  • tony

    getting close to another presidential election. i’ve noticed that we only have homeless vets during presidential elections. the people i served with wouldn’t sit on their butts begging.

    • Darrell

      Thanks for that Tony. The Marines I served with would rather cut off an appendage than sit on a sidewalk and beg.

  • Homer

    I believe that there are all kinds of homeless people and I sorry for most of them. When I see a person holding up a sign with Vet on it, I wonder if they are truly a Veteran. If they are standing near a building where I am going I will stop and ask them a series of questions to see if they were in the service. I was in the Air Force myself and I know the questions to ask them. I also serviced with other branched or had friends who were with the Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard. If they know the answers to my question I give them a few bucks. But the ones who have never served, you can tell after a few questions, I get mad and let them know that they are fake and speak in a loud voice that they are a fake. You would be surprised how fast they pick up and leave. Just because someone has a sign that says Vet on it doesn’t mean they are.

  • j g cat

    jail sounds like the right thing to do.

  • Vicky

    From personal experience I will not give a beggar with a sign money. I’ve been around them for years as my daughter chose to fall in love with one and adopted the lifestyle of begging for money. They share a trailer together which is paid for with an SSI check for ‘mental’ illness. Their home is a revolving door of ‘homeless’ from all over the US. They network. They have websites and Facebook accounts where many show off pics of themselves holding up cash they bummed that day. They smoke pot and drink like fish. They have organized festivals and meetings yearly in different areas of the country. They bum rides, food, money, clothes and all have Obama phones. Many do learn some form of entertainment, visual artwork, crafting, singing/playinng an instrument and even hoola hooping for cash when they go through a city. They choose this to live this way. They don’t have to. Most hate the government, authority and evil corporations. Yet they use them as a means of survival. They’re master’s at deception. One of their websites is called Oggles. Go have a look and then kick yourself for being so gullible. Please, pray for my daughter to come back to the real world.

    • agrwife(retired)

      You have my sympathy. One of my older brothers did this for a “living”. We don’t know if he still does, because we had to stop having contact with him decades ago. He stole from us. And acted like we “owed” him money. He stole from just about everyone in the family, under the guise of “I’m trying to turn my life around”. No, he wasn’t. He just knew the buzz words that would get people to open their wallets.

      He used to sit on the freeway exit with a sign saying “homeless vet, please help” He did try to join the Navy, he made it through 3 weeks of basic before they discharged him for being incompatible with military service. He said that made him a “VET”. He made more sitting there for four hours on a Friday evening than I made working for forty hours. He would then go home to his section 8 townhouse(his ex-wife was on welfare) ate free food, had no bills, spent all his tax free money on booze and drugs and laughed at those saps that gave him money. Very sad, but very common. I never give money to panhandlers. EVER.

    • Namike

      That’s such a shame… I never knew it got that far. Thank you for bringing this up into the open, and I am sorry for your family.

    • I truly am sorry about your daughter, and will include her in my prayers.
      The Upper Florida Keys community supports a homeless Marine veteran who feeds the abandoned cats here.
      Recently, Jack was given a trailer to live in after spending almost 20 years under the Tavernier Creek Bridge.
      I use my gut when its comes to giving.
      You have a better weapon, womens intuition.

      • Vicky

        Lol, one gut is as good as another. You have to use your gut. I trust the holy spirit to guide me on who to assist and in what way. Money is almost never on the list. The bible says to give even you enemies drink if they are thirsty and food if they are hungry. These people are not my enemy. And if they were ever followers of Christ, they are my brother, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

    • Gweny

      I have found no website called oggles.

    • Melissa

      What is an Obama phone? If you’re talking about the free cell phones for people receiving public assistance (Medicaid, Food Stamps, or TANF), that program has been in place for years. Otherwise,I agree with most of your post and I will pray for your daughter, but, depending on how long she had been duping the system, she may be too far gone to turn around now.

  • guest

    I often encountered beggars on the street in major cities. As someone who has been homeless I tend to take the tack that people deserve the benefit of a doubt. One night I was approached by a man as my friend and I were leaving a dessert shop. He asked for money for dinner. I didn’t have cash so I offered him my dessert, suspecting he would say no and walk away. He took it and when he thought he was out of my line of sight, he shoved the who cake in his face and ate it. He was, indeed, starving. I don’t think he even chewed it. For me, it’s a good reminder that it’s not my place to judge where people are at- it is only my job to be a good christian.

  • Phil Wojtalewicz

    A few years back I was in Denver for military duty. I stopped in to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner that night. Sitting at the bar, watching the games, a “homeless” man sat down a few stools away from me. Dressed all disheveled, unshaven with unruly hair, he proceeded to pull out 3 cell phones and a wad of cash (10s, 20s, etc)! I would bet he had several thousand dollars in one hand. He checked each phone for messages and ordered up a meal and beer.

    After he left, I asked the bartender about the man. Bartender said he was a regular and always has that amount of cash on hand. That was the man’s job!

    I will NEVER give cash to anyone sitting on a corner, EVER!

    • Hooksdown

      Donating to people in bars has its drawbacks, too.

      • Phil Wojtalewicz

        I didn’t state anyone was donating to him while IN the bar.

  • Taylor

    What I do is keep packets of peanut butter crackers in the car. They keep well, have some protein, and I can give them out as needed. Some people don’t want them and others are truly grateful. I have taped a Jesus tract to the bottom of each so there is a chance they could get saved even if they are fakers. The power of the Holy Spirit is real.

    • guest

      Yes because getting saved is the most important thing when you’re homeless. You’re killing me.

    • Vicky

      I love that you do that. Thank you. I sincerely believe that it works in at least 1% of the homeless you reach.The person has to be receptive, the Holy Spirit/God forces no one. My experience has led me to believe that homeless are homeless because they reject God to a higher degree than the rest of the general populace. Their life is an embrace of lawlessness and debauchery. They make up their own crude and base rules to live outside of society. Lying is a way of life. They lie to family members, police, train security, the people they panhandle and each other. If there are any in America who desperately need Christian missionaries to flood their world, this is it. You have to be careful because tho many fake mental illness to get a SSI check, some actually are and could be considered dangerous. Stay prayed up and fast before going in deep. God bless those who love the unlovable.

  • randy

    These scumbags laugh at you after they get your money. Go to any library in any major city and just listen to their conversation about how they rip off the gullible public. They have no worries like the person who works for a living. Everything is given to the deadbeats. If you feel good in giving them your money then go ahead and do it. They sit in front of a computer at the library and watch movies. I know because I work at a library and it’s a public building so nothing can be done about it. Their life is easy compared to the working man.

  • kent

    There are honorably discharged vets & less than honorably discharged vets who do not qualify for VA benefits. If you want to help the homeless please do, but not because they claim to be a vet. Money is what they want, but only to buy a drink. Find an agency that helps the homeless & support them.

  • JSG

    I always stop when I see someone claiming to be vet needing assistance. Sometimes, it is genuine veteran who’s down on his luck. Often, it’s enough to listen and/or buy a meal.

    However, I have given up counting the number of fake vets I’ve run into. Sometimes it’s someone whose dates of service don’t relate to the combat service. Or can’t tell me his last duty station. I’ve even run into someone who claimed to be a Purple Heart recipient with service-connected disability while riding a bus. He was begging and showed me a VA card as he told about his war story. I pointed out to him his card should have those two categories noted on the card and if the VA didn’t have those details recorded, resulting in increased difficulty in obtaining hospital care. When I showed him mine, complete with those two annotations, he ran away from the bus we were riding like he was on fire.

  • Wayne

    A few years ago in San Diego at Midway Drive and Rosecrans there was a husband/wife team with signs that worked each side of that intersection. One day at a long left turn light i chatted with him. He told me they got their rent money within a week at that intersection. Anything else they got was spending money.

    In the town i live in the city council had cards printed out giving contact info for social service agencies to hand out to panhandlers in town (and there’s a lot). The cards were given out free to anyone who wanted them. I grabbed a few and handed one to the guy that always hangs around the gas station i use. He threw it down saying “I can’t buy a beer with this”. I basically got the same reaction to two other panhandlers that i gave them to. I don’t give squat to panhandlers anymore.

  • jffourquet

    What you do is stop giving money to people on the streets. If you want to help donate to a know charity. This way you are not wasting your money on a fraud and you money is put to better uss.

  • mschulman

    I am all for helping people but some homeless people don’t want your help, they just want your money and anything else they can get. If you think I am making this up, just wait until one burns you. Back in 1993 I discovered that a fellow Marine I knew from work had gotten out of the service two years prior and was living under a bridge in Yuma Az. I invited him to stay at my house, the entire time he cried about how hard it is to find a job when you don’t have a permanent address. I fed him, gave him a place to sleep and set him up with a job running heavy equipment for very good money. What did I get in return? The day before he was to report to his new job he stole my pickup truck and a bunch of clothing from my house. The police discovered my truck 3 states away with a blown engine and a few weeks later arrested him. It cost my insurance company over $6,000.00 to repair the truck, but I never got my clothing back. I met with him at the jail and asked him why he had stolen my things when I had been helping him? He looked at me and said “You should have minded your own business”! Let me tell you, now, if I see a homeless person, I keep in mind that many of them only want my money, not my help. Live and learn.

  • An old Grunt

    Everyone should have our sympathies, should they honestly be in need. However, those who deceive us regardless of the reason are worthy only of our scorn.

  • Ron

    As a Vet myself I know what it means to serve your Country. I also know what it feels like to be in situations not knowing were your next meal or bed might come from. When a person makes people feel sorry for them using the guise of being an American Veteran well to me that is down right mean. The American people have a sense of responsibility to those who have put their very lives in danger to protect them and their way of life. When people who pass themselves off as Vets to con people out of what they have made, well it takes from the very meaning of what this Country is about. Over my life I have talked to people who have tried to pass themselves off as being in the Military and being a Vet. Well, I feel sorry for those people and yet at the same time I hate them for dishonoring those Veteran who have served this Country We as a People should Honor those who have serve this Country so well and at the same time when we find those who are passing themselves off as Vet should do something to get them off the streets so they do not dishonor those who have given so much of themselves to protect us from harm.

  • ken

    I would rather find a SM in uniform eating lunch and anonymously buy their meal. I did that for a young marine and did not leave fast enough. I told him thank you, and I could tell he was visibly moved. I was in the army at the time but was in civies, and told him this country loves you and to be careful.

  • Jody Steinberg

    Panhandlers are often frauds. There are suspicions that they are just trying to get money for drugs, etc. But there are many good organizations that collect funds to support vets. I’m sure they check to see if the person actually served before they give him or her anything. Give your money to the certified agencies. They need every penny they can get.

  • 19d

    I had the one guy hit me up ” hey spare some change for a homeless vet?”
    I asked him “what’s your MOS?” blank stare
    after a few more questions he walked away
    if you let going to fake it do some basic research

  • D S Parker ,USMC/USN

    If today was as it was when I got out, he would never dare do such a thing.
    Military were targets in this country. Somebody would try to kill or hurt him.
    It was not safe even to walk down the road, I know, because some rednecks in Arkansas tried to run me down with a truck, when they missed, they stopped and started to get out, but got back in after I pulled out my K-Bar. They ran like little girls.
    I find it strange, when I am thanked for my service by strangers now.
    And I am still fighting for my VA disability, and even Obama will do nothing.

  • Joe

    Having PTSD , a Vietnam Vet I am over whelmed by the amount if homeless vets . Research tells me that the problem goes back to the civil war .Refer all to the VA or the local vet center for help , the real vets might go the phonies will not . War causes problems that takes years maybe lifetimes to go away . I am thankful that most everyone cares and I am sadden by the cowards who claim service .

  • Hi, I am a female Army Veteran, and I also
    know what it’s like to serve, even though I’ve
    never been overseas in my 11 yrs of duty.
    I served during 9/11 on Active Duty, and on
    many Hurricane Duty Missions in the Natl
    Guard. I was Active Duty from ’99-’02( ’99 & until Feb ’00 was my Basic Training & AIT. Anyhow, I was Honorably Discharged from the Army, was out for 9 mos, and then joined the U.S Army Texas Natl Guard. I was in from ’03-’11. I landed a great job in ’06 because I was part of the Natl Guard, even though my career Military wise, was going nowhere. I was just
    Thankful that I ran into the right people, at the
    right time. God is good. Well Anyhow, I worked my good paying Supply job until ’10
    when I was laid off. I was struggling financially,
    and was depressed from losing my job, and
    was foolish, didn’t really try to look for employment. Well the end of ’10, I had to
    appeal for my unemployment twice, and finally
    won Pro-bono with my friend that’s an attorney. In ’11, Was the worst year of my life
    so far. I got an eviction notice to my apt, and in
    Feb received paperwork for Med Board for the
    Natl Guard. I knew that was coming, just not
    when-Isn’t that so convienient?! Well, My health started going downhill in Feb because
    of my stress, and something else was wrong with me, but didn’t know what. I was taken to
    a local hospital, but not the VA . I told my unit
    even though I had a problem with a nurse in the ER there, to take me anyways, but they
    we’re stupid, and didn’t. I ended up with Med
    Bills that came to $3,000-$4,000 just for going
    to the ER, being treated with tests, but not being admitted to stay. I went to my Natl Guard drill the next day still sick as a dog
    knowing that something was wrong. Anyhow,
    I started going to the VA Urgent Care & My Dr
    until they figured it out. They still hadn’t, and
    in the meantime I had to go to the Senator’s office to get help with my unemployment,
    and get an attorney the next local city called
    Legal Aid to start working on my eviction notice as well. I didn’t handle my medcl bill
    until later because I was overwhelmed.
    Thank God in the outcome, my Manager
    didn’t show up to court, so the judge dismissed my case. I went to my apt
    manager the same day, and had a new one-
    Thank God that she worked with me. I ended
    up getting my unemployment a few days after
    court, but my check was held by my bank for
    ten days Ugh :-/. Well, At least I was able to
    pay my back-up rent & fees back, caught up
    on my other bills, paid back my family, and got
    some good groceries. I was getting Fdstmps
    at the time, so that helped me out tremendously. I was so Thankful for that. My
    health was getting worse, and then came May
    ’11. I had drill and my PT test. I passed, but didn’t make it to height/weight. I was told by my 1SG to go with a fellow soldier that was
    a SGT, to go get my equipment, and be back
    in an hr. It was for my Med Board. I did, came back, did my inventory in the drill hall, and was handed a big screwdriver from the Supply SGT to take apart all of my equipment. I thought that was fine, and there were a few other soldiers doing the same thing. The only thing that made me upset was not getting to even stand in my last formation. That really
    made me upset for Serving in that unit for 8
    Yrs, and that’s what I got. I felt(in my head) like-Well, Screw you too! I only had a few soldiers come up to me, and Thank Me for
    Serving with them. There was another soldier
    was great and helped me take my equipment
    apart. I was done with all of that, and then
    decided that I needed to go back to the same
    Senators office, and the next cities Headquarters, and went to IG. I was very hurt
    from the way I was treated, and wasn’t even allowed to finish my last drill in June ’11, I was
    told. That was a bunch of BS because my
    Appeal the Med Board said that I’m allowed to
    finish out my contract. For that I got an Honorable Discharge RE-1, got my medcl bills
    paid off between the IG and the hospital, and
    my Texas Faithful Service Medal(equal to a Good Conduct Metal that’s given every three years, but in the National Guard it’s five. That was supposed to be given to me in ’08, and never was. I received that award letter in the mail, and the order was made from my Readiness SGT and my CO on my B-Day Lol I know they hated me, but I didn’t give a rats after the way I was treated. There were even more things that went on in that unit thru the years, that I can’t even put on here, because it’s personal, and I could probably write a book about it. Well, I never got my two weeks of AT pay because it was “Considered Training”, and since I was getting out, I was able to drill.
    It was so jacked up because AT was before
    my contract was up. Anyways, Since then I
    finally moved on with my life which was hard,
    but I had to “Suck it up, and drive on”. Well,
    I’m going above and beyond what anyone wants to hear, and I don’t want any sympathy,
    but just to educate soldiers and veterans about their resources out in the Community.
    There are many food banks where I live, but
    the nearest homeless shelter is in a nearby
    city. The other homeless shelters where I
    live are for battered and abused women and
    children. I’m glad that I know these things,
    and where to go. Familiesincrisis.com, VA
    Homeless programs, or VASH Programs that help Disabled Veterans get homes that are based on their income. Senator Troy Frasers office in Belton is a great place to go for Veterans Problems, because that’s where I went, and got all of the help I needed, and who I talked to was great. I talked to Ralph Gauer, a retired Col from the Army. He def knows what Vets are about. To all who are serving, and to those who served. If you need any help, just let me know. God Bless 0:-)

    -P.S. I don’t give to homeless Vets either,
    just to the the VFW, DAV, or Wounded Warriors.

  • -P.S.S. I forgot to add that a good thing
    to have for any emotional support,
    any emergency, or suicide 24 Hrs is the
    Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
    Press 1

  • LIAM

    The best thing one can do is have business cards made up with local contact numbers on it, instead of giving money to them, give them the card with all the local contact numbers, offer to let him use a phone if you are comfortable with that! We used to give old phones that were prepaid on it to homeless persons, and a card. the local phone store got phones donated to the charity as well as the prepaid minutes. Then we gave them the card with the numbers. It did work. Here in Norway the programme is successful. just saying!

  • Yes there are many fake vets, and many fake homeless people. Only offer a sandwich and water, this generous offer will help you not feel guilty for not sharing at all despite if the person in distress is real or not. No money!!!

  • D.C.

    I used to have a friend who joined the army just before we graduated high school. He didn’t even make it through BCT before getting dishonorably discharged…though I’m not sure of the exact reason. That was nearly 18 years ago. Today, he still says that he was a vet and tells people that he got out on a medical discharge when he was shot in the leg while trying to apprehend someone as part of the MP. He even shows a small intention in his calf that he says was from the bullet. But I know it’s from where his sister shot him with a BB gun when he was 10.
    There have been times where I have “cock-blocked” (for lack of a better term) him when he has tried using this story to pick up women. Fortunately, several years ago, I cut him out of my life completely not only because I got tired of all the bs, but many other things. Two years later, I joined the army reserves and have been in for 5 1/2 years and just re-enlisted for 6 more. I don’t talk about my service unless the topic comes up. I didn’t join to have something to impress women with. I joined to serve and defend my country. I’m sure a few of you reading this will start with the “part-time soldier” or “weekend warrior” stuff which I have grown accustomed to hearing on an almost daily basis…especially from people who have never served and just think it’s cute to say. But the bottom line is I do serve with as much honor and respect that any full-time soldier does.
    Now that I’ve talked about that, as far as homeless vets go: I have seen them. But I make it a point to never give money to any homeless person. I give them food…many times an MRE that they give us at drill but I just get mine and go somewhere to eat. I came across a homeless woman when I lived in AZ…actually a day or two before I moved back to TN. Her clothes were worn and it looked like she hadn’t bathed in a month. I took pity on her. At the time, I had already moved out of my house and had a hotel room for my last couple of days there. I took her back to the hotel, let her go take a shower, took her out to eat and then went and bought her some new clothes. Hours before my flight left, I took her to a temp agency I had been working for and helped her get a job. I still talk to her from time to time and she is doing great.
    But then there are the ones who claim to be homeless vets. Like most of you, I am always very skeptical when I see this. So, I too ask questions. It’s easy to spot the fakes. I remember one whose sign said he was an OIF vet. I started talking and asked him how many times he had been deployed. His reply, “Three tours. All of them were in Kandahar, Afghanistan.” When I mentioned to him that Afghanistan was a completely separate war and called OEF, he backtracked and tried saying he had just made a mistake on his sign.
    NOW….the most annoying people on the planet as far as I’m concerned. Sorry for the rant here…especially since this part really has nothing to do with the topic. But I work with a guy who loves to compare war stories with me. During my deployment, we didn’t see a lot of action so my stories are pretty tame. However, he likes to talk about going into the villages, talking to the people, kicking in doors, hour long fire fights, etc. The problem….he’s not nor has he ever been in the military. All of his “war stories” are from video games. So he tries to take great pride in correcting me on how things should be done in battle because he knows what it’s like. He even wears a jacket with a SGT patch on it because that is his rank in the game. Really!?

  • Jimsonweed

    Yeah, check this guy out:

    Go to page 16 and read the article: “Former Navy Seal fighting his last battle on the streets of Monterey.”

    Trust me, he’s a total fake. We all in town know him as ‘Hotel Johny’. I’ve seen him scam high school kids for cigs and military personnel in uniform.

    I know this guy. I’ve talked to him at length. I even took him to the Veteran’s Transition Service (for the homeless) in Marina. All he wanted to do was to eat their food and kept saying ‘I’ll take some pamphlets’ which he never did.

    He was probably in the Foreign Service. Again, everybody in town knows him as ‘Hotel Johny’ and he sleeps at the Transit Center. He should be involuntarily committed somewhere. He’s a total alchoholic.
    and a public health hazard. They kicked him out of the public library because he’s got body lice. This guy needs to be put away somewhere. He’s a danger and public health hazard to himself and others.

  • Cat May

    WHY is it that those of you self righteous people who never wish to help out anyone get all the thumbs up but the one person who seems to have compassion here gets the thumbs down??? You really make me sick!!

    For your information, homeless people CAN have email and linkenIn accounts! How? Gee, there’s this thing here called the Public Library and they have computers that can be used for such things. Also, here, they can get a cell phone with 250 free minutes and 250 texts. There are also private, often church run agencies (that’s another thing, you guys all act so “Christian like” yet don’t listen to the teachings of Christianity!) that offer free internet access, a mailing address, as well as a change of clothes and some food.

    So, yes, continue on your merry way without a care in the world. There are hair appointments to make, golf games, etc. on your schedule. Oh, well, I have spent my entire adult life trying to help.. makes me very sad when I waste my time reading these posts. So, bring on your thumbs down.. I am wearing my big girl panties today and I can take it.

    Just wonder WHY there seems to be NO ONE who signed up to “serve” but only serve themselves?? I’m so blessed to have married a sailor, 33 years ago, who is not like you all!

  • Fantom

    We send this to EVERY organization asking for donationsbe they veteran’s orgs or not:
    We no longer contribute to organized national charities, nor donate, nor support media advertised national promotional donation requests. In particular, we do not contribute to political campaigns, candidates nor partisan causes that are promoted by unidentified, non-public entities that are allowed to collect funds without accurate disclosure. We believe the overwhelming amount of money yours and other such organizations collect goes more to salaries, fund raising and promotions than to the people, victims, issues, animals, or whatever, for whom you fraudulently claim to solicit funds to be used to provide them help. You’re using money that other contributors have donated (wasted) by giving their hard earned cash to your travel, collections, advertising, promotion and over-paid executives!!

    We do gladly contribute to those who are truly needy by giving the money directly to them—putting ALL the CASH money—100? DIRECTLY into their hands, thereby avoiding your rake off the top and accomplishing far more than you can to help.

    Please remove us from your solicitation list!

  • Anonymous

    years ago, I read an article from a homeless director stating that 7 out of 10 homeless were not worth anyone’s resources and effort, but the 3 in 10 were and that was why he did what he did…..

  • rey

    Best bet to find out who’s really homeless find a homeless shelter in your area and look at some of the faces so when you come across some of those faces you know they are really homeless talk to done of the counselors or chaplains they will tell you who’s really trying to get there stuff together and who’s just homeless because of laziness or drug addicts.

  • rey

    Believe me I know I’ve been there and seen it with my own eyes. Me being homeless was a real eye opener I’ve seen and heard things that 90% of people will never know goes on. In a way I’m kind of happy I went through that situation because I experienced a whole another world that didn’t know existed.

  • major tom

    I was affiliated with a homeless vet shelter and the vets had to be drug and alcohol free and make a real effort to get their live in order.

  • George

    I had a older “VET” come up to me and ask if I had a couple of dollars for a Vet so he could buy his diabetes meds, I asked what his last A1C was, I’m a diabetic and I can tell you what mine is, he had no idea what I was talking about. He uttered something under his breath and walked away, guess I hit a sore point. I will help when it is really necessary but I will not just give my hard earned cash away.

  • TeenFromSF

    Just today I saw a homeless that claimed he was a vet that fought in the Vietnam war. I’m not sure if he was lying, but I bought him a hotdog and a drink anyways. then moments when I walked away a block I heard him scream, “I got free food!” That made me worry a bit if he was truly a U.S vet. I felt a bit humiliated and stupid for helping someone who lied. Reading this article made me feel a bit better that I was not the only one who got fooled.