By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER Associated Press COLUMBIA -- More than 900 South Carolina veterans who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless sought help from the Department of Veterans Affairs during the past fiscal year and some have been as young as 23 years old, officials reported Wednesday. Patricia Bradford, a VA specialist in homeless issues, said she has seen a slight increase in the problem in the past two years as the state's veterans return from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. "I think there is an increase. I can't say it's a dramatic increase. But one change is that we are seeing younger homeless veterans coming into the centers in the past two years," Bradford said in a telephone interview. "Some are just 23, 24 years old." Bradford said she can't pinpoint a singular cause, but anecdotal reports from VA clinics in the Palmetto State seem to point to some of the young veterans having problems with holding jobs, possibly due to memory problems or difficulty adjusting to civilian life after serving in the military. "We really don't know the exact cause," she said. "There may be any number of things that make it difficult for them to function." As the number of veterans who have served recently increases, it seems that they are returning to fewer and fewer jobs, she said. "Some don't have a driver's license, or they can't pass a background check" because of legal issues, she said. If the veterans can't hold jobs, the potential for homelessness increases, she said. There are VA programs to help improve veterans' workplace skills and to support health and mental issues, Bradford said. "We really want to get to them before they become homeless, to try to avoid that happening," she said. Bradford said a push for the past several months has been made to ensure that veterans who identify themselves as homeless are evaluated by specialists "the very day they appear," in VA clinics. Several transitional homes are opening in Greenwood and Columbia, Bradford said, to house homeless veterans while they work on vocational skills. A home for female veterans will open in Columbia in the next several months, she said. South Carolina has seen thousands of its residents -- in active duty, the reserves and with the South Carolina Army and Air National Guard -- march off to war in the past five years. Some 1,800 members of the South Carolina Army National Guard's 218th Combat Brigade Team are in Afghanistan, training members of the Afghan Army and police. They deployed in January. The massive brigade was the largest single unit deployment by the South Carolina Guard since World War II. Priscilla Creamer, spokeswoman at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center, said a 2005 census estimated that there were 1,753 homeless veterans in the Palmetto State. Bradford said during the past fiscal year, which ended in October, just over 400 homeless veterans had come through the Columbia VA offices, while some 513 had been seen by Charleston VA officials. Another census was taken at the beginning of this year, but the numbers haven't been made public, she said.