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SNAP: An Important Resource for Ohio Veterans

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Friday, November 10, 2017   

COLUMBUS, Ohio – As Ohio and the rest of the nation pause to commemorate Veterans Day Saturday, new research shows how some anti-poverty programs are helping those who have served their country.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities looked at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and found eight percent of Ohio veterans are using SNAP benefits to put food on the table.

That's about 64,000 people, says Nick Sunday of Columbus, a veteran who helps others apply for the program at the Ohio Benefit Bank.

"That's kind of sad to see that many veterans needing food," he laments. "But how many veterans don't even apply for SNAP? Sometimes people say, 'Hey, I can get by with food pantries. Give it to somebody who really needs it.' And I say, 'No, you do need it, you know?' I say, 'Stay here, I'm going to sign you up.'"

For five years, Sunday has manned a weekly table at a VA clinic in Columbus to connect veterans to resources that can help in adjusting to civilian life, including SNAP, Medicaid and utility assistance. Nationally, about 1.5 million veterans live in households that participate in the SNAP program.

According to the data, young veterans have higher unemployment and lower labor force participation rates than similar civilians. And Sunday says he's made helping veterans find jobs a priority. But in the beginning, he realized employment cannot be attained without addressing other challenges.

"I had to step backwards, because a lot of them had barriers - you have housing, food and utility bills," he notes. "So, we of had to kind of work on the emergency services first to get the right door open for them; and then, slowly start working with them to find employment."

He adds sometimes asking for assistance is difficult, and can be a matter of time, transportation and even pride. But he says it will now be easier with a new requirement that VA caseworkers ask any veterans they are working with about food security.

"You're going to see probably a huge increase for people applying for SNAP," he warns. "And the easier you make it for them, the better off for everybody - they don't have to go anywhere, they're satisfied."


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