WASHINGTON — They fought for their country and defended freedom.
Yet, an alarming number of America's military veterans are going hungry, suffering from "food insecurity."
A stunning 11.1% of working-age veterans (ages 18 to 64) live in "food insecure" households, according to a 2021 U.S. Dept. of Agriculture study.
"Food insecurity is the lack of consistent access to enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle," said Kathy Larin, a director in the Government Accountability Office's Education, Workforce, and Income Security team. "It's a problem for many people, but it's a particular problem for veterans. This is higher than among the non-veteran population, and it's particularly high for disabled, unemployed and women veterans."
The Dept. of Veterans Affairs does screen to identify such veterans and refer them to food banks and other services and resources.
But, according to a new report out this week from the GAO, the VA hasn't fully monitored or evaluated the effectiveness of its efforts, and veterans can fall through the cracks.
"VA is not monitoring their own efforts to make sure veterans actually receive the assistance that they need," said Larin.
The USDA study found that 5.3% of veterans lived in households with "very low food security," meaning at least some people in the household were missing meals.
And the problem could get worse, with the VA reporting that 1.5 million veterans live in poverty, and their poverty rates are rising.
In its report, the GAO is also calling upon the Agriculture Dept. to improve its collaboration with the VA to better support veterans' food insecurity.