Navy vet recalls homelessness, hunger: ‘A desperation I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy’

For Navy veteran Tim Keefe, hunger wasn’t something he ever really thought about or expected to face in his own life.

“I’ve worked since I was 11-years-old,” Keefe told members of a House panel Wednesday. “I never had to worry about being hungry. I’d just work and I’d eat. It wasn’t until I couldn’t work that I experienced real hunger.”

Keefe says after getting injured at work, he became unemployed and homeless.

He says he received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, often known as food stamps, for three months but was then cut off because he didn’t meet the job requirements because he was still unable to work.

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Keefe filed multiple appeals that weren’t successful.

He was living in rural Maine at the time and said he had to rely on hitchhiking to food pantries once a month.

“It’s a desperation I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” said Keefe.  “I had to add seven holes to the belt I was wearing to keep my pants up.”

Keefe said he was able to get SNAP benefits once again after he turned 50 because he aged out of the job requirements.

A year later, he was back at work and thankfully put the ordeal of homelessness and hunger behind him.

Keefe shared his story with lawmakers and urged Congress to do more to help not only veterans but also active duty military service members and their families who are facing hunger.

“There’s simply no reason that military veterans and service members should experience the painful reality of hunger,” said Mia Hubbard, Vice President of Programs for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “Military and veteran families have been allowed to go hungry on your watch and your inaction has allowed this situation to persist for years and to grow worse over the course of the pandemic.”

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Hubbard called on Congress and the Biden administration to push for the inclusion of a full military family basic needs allowance provision in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.

Witnesses also called for increased military pay and veterans benefits.

Keefe is urging lawmakers to make sure other veterans don’t face the same hardship he endured.

“When I swore into the Navy in Boston, I was ready and willing to give my life for this country and it seemed like during this time, I couldn’t even get a sandwich from them,” said Keefe.