Fewer veterans are seeking food or shelter from rescue missions, according to an October survey of almost 17,000 individuals.
Overall, veterans made up 12 percent of those seeking help from the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), which surveyed more than 100 of its 285 members offering "radical hospitality in the name of Jesus."
The number of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan dropped from 12 percent of identified vets to 8 percent, while those who served in the Persian Gulf dropped from 16 percent to 12 percent. By contrast, the numbers of those who served in Vietnam (20 percent) and Korea (4 percent) remained steady.
The overall drop is welcome news after last year's report that twice as many Iraq and Afghanistan vets were seeking help from AGRM missions. The numbers reflect a larger drop counted by the Housing and Urban Development Department, which recently reported an 8 percent drop in homeless veterans.
The needs of homeless veterans are often complicated by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a Veterans Day broadcast, televangelist Kenneth Copeland and controversial historian David Barton told radio listeners that God's promises can release them from PTSD.
Religion News Service covered the heated response. "For them to denigrate the suffering of men and women traumatized by war—and to claim biblical support for their callow and doltish views—is both shocking and unconscionable," Joe Carter, communications director for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told RNS.
Many church leaders are working to engage veterans, aiming to be a consistent presence for soldiers as they transition back home. Veterans Affairs has ramped up training for clergy to learn how to help those in the service, and several ministries help churches offer programs and counseling to veterans.