Neglected Veterans Day

It’s Neglected Veterans Day, and our vets need help.
from a Pentagon press release:

    NEW YORK, Nov. 9, 2008 – The United States will remember the servicemembers who have made incredible sacrifices on the nation’s behalf, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during the “A Salute to Our Troops” dinner sponsored by United Service Organizations and Microsoft here last night.
    “I promise you we will never, ever forget,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said told the 25 wounded warriors, their guests and corporate representatives. “You are our inspiration, and we care for you, and we will always care for you.”

It never changes. A few decide that war will be profitable and the poor souls that have to fight it and suffer from it make “incredible sacrifices on the nation’s behalf. . .we will always care for you.” And now the injured are “wounded warriors.”
I met a older veteran down in Mexico last year that was still suffering from the Vietnam war (Agent Orange) and was mighty upset about how the US government had neglected him and others with his affliction. (Probably if I had called him a “wounded warrior” he would have slugged me, with good reason.) He’s been neglected. And now here we go again.
According to a recent fact sheet published by the White House, “President Bush Has Provided Unprecedented Support for Our Veterans — Dramatically Increased Funding To Support And Care For Those Who Have Served Our Nation.” According to this fact sheet, the US has increased funding for veterans’ medical care by more than 115 percent since 2001.
Catch that: “more than 115 percent since 2001.” If you look at the chart on the fact sheet you’ll see that the increase is actually 105% (from $20b to $41b), not 115%. The spending on veterans’ medical care has slightly more than doubled since 2001. The reality is that George Bush is AWOL again — this time as Commander-in-Chief. It’s hard for some people to change.

We will always care for you who sacrificed for the nation? Who’s “we,” kimosabe? Since 2001 the government has embarked on a major war in two countries which has required the repeated deployment of military units, augmented on the ground by sailors and airmen as well as many units of the National Guard and Reserves. Enlistees are not allowed to leave the service and are returned to the war zone with physical and psychological injuries. While body protection and rapid evacuation of the wounded have saved lives, there are many more wounded, and the US has only doubled the funding for veterans medical care since 2001!!
This funding shortfall results in inadequate care, widespread evasion of responsibility and downright fraud, like claiming that the psychological trauma resulting from your vehicle being blown up really comes from a disturbed childhood. Can’t happen? On April 9, Spc. Jon Town was featured on the cover of The Nation, in an article that told how he was wounded in Iraq, won a Purple Heart and was then denied all disability and medical benefits. Town’s doctor had concluded that his headaches and hearing loss were not caused by the 107-millimeter rocket that knocked him unconscious but by a psychological condition, “personality disorder,” a pre-existing illness for which one cannot collect disability pay or receive medical care.
It’s a way to save money, on the suffering of vets. Thanks, George, wherever you are.
From the New York Times, July 25, 2008:

    The bad news about the Army’s treatment of wounded soldiers keeps coming. The generals keep apologizing and insisting that things are getting better, but they are not.
    After a flurry of apologies, firings, investigations and reports, the Army resolved to streamline and improve case management for wounded soldiers. Under the plan, “warrior transition units” would swiftly deliver excellent care to troops so they could return to duty or be discharged into the veterans’ medical system. Each soldier would be assigned a team to look over his or her care: a physician, a nurse and a squad leader. It all sounded sensible and comprehensive.
    It has not worked out so well. Staff members of the House subcommittee who visited numerous warrior transition units June 2007 to February found a significant gap between the Army leadership’s optimistic promises and reality.
    Among other things, the Army failed to anticipate a flood of wounded soldiers. Some transition units have been overwhelmed and are thus severely understaffed. At Fort Hood, Tex., last month, staff members found 1,362 patients in a unit authorized for 649 — and more than 350 on a waiting list. Of the total, 311 were identified as being at high risk of drug overdose, suicide or other dangerous behavior. There were 38 nurse case managers when there should have been 74. Some soldiers have had to languish two months to a year before the Army decided what to do with them, far longer than the goal the Army set last year.
    There are now about 12,500 soldiers assigned to the warrior transition units — more than twice as many as a year ago. The number is expected to reach 20,000 by this time next year.
    The nation’s responsibility to care for the wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan will extend for decades. After Tuesday’s hearing, we are left pondering the simple questions asked at the outset by Representative Susan Davis, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the military personnel subcommittee: Why did the Army fail to adequately staff its warrior transition units? Why did it fail to predict the surge in demand? And why did it take visits from a Congressional subcommittee to prod the Army into recognizing and promising — yet again — to fix the problem?

On any given night nearly 200,000 homeless veterans sleep on the street, in a shelter or in transitional housing and there are 7,000 to 8,000 female military veterans who are homeless.
It gets worse, according to the VA. “The number of suicide attempts each month among veterans in the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs may exceed 1,000, said the man who runs the department. Dr. James Peake, VA secretary, told the House Veterans Affairs Committee that the figure used in an internal VA e-mail is probably accurate.
This just in — Citing Warrior Care as both a top priority and a solemn obligation, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates designated November as “Warrior Care Month.” More words, only words.
I think that there should be no higher priority in the country than the proper care of the veterans who suffer from the government’s wars. Veterans’ care, or warrior care if you prefer, including medical and psychological care and housing, should be tops on the list, ahead of everything else, even including banks and investment companies, for sure. Obviously it isn’t. What do you think?

Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, “war is a racket.”

2 thoughts on “Neglected Veterans Day”

  1. Well Don, I guess you’ve missed the current crisis our country is involved in. Our government has recently been saddled with a 700 billion dollar bailout to secure Wall Street investor. So unfortunately there’s not enough left to help out those not big enough to fail. Like our veterans. I mean if Wall Street is not saved with the patriotic little peoples money all those big investors might take their money some place else. In a patriotic sort of way, of course.

  2. I guess Warrior Care Month just couldn’t compete with Fat Cat Care Month. We wouldn’t want any of those money guys jumping out of windows or anything.

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