Tag Archives: Veterans

Care Of Wounded Improves-But More Needed

The General Accountability Office(GAO) praised efforts by the United States Army over the past year to assist soldiers going through the disability retirement process. However, it noted some treatment facilities lack as much as 40 percent of the staff required to maintain a ratio of one legal counselor per 30 soldiers. According to John Pendleton of the GAO, “The Army has made progress in the five months since our September hearing,” he said, referring to a previous GAO report which showed the Army’s Transition Units were only half-staffed. But one-third of the units still have staffing shortages. At some bases, 40 percent of wounded or sick soldiers have not been assigned to a Transition Unit.

Daniel Bertoni, GAO’s director of education, workforce and income security, said the GAO’s new report found that one military evaluation board physician per 200 soldiers is not enoough and the ratio must come down to one per hundred.

The real issue arising from the GAO report is why did the Bush administration enter a war without giving sufficient thought and consideration to the needs of wounded soldiers? Why has it taken six years for changes to be made in regard to treatment of wounded soldiers who are being discharged into civilian life? The story of the Iraq war is the continual neglect on the part of the Bush administration of the costs of war. That is the national scandal which the American people should never forget.

Most Veteran Suicides From National Guard and Reserves

A study by the Department of Veterans Affairs concludes that Reservists and members of the National Guard who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq comprise a majority of all suicides by veterans between 2001 when the invasion of Afghanistan took place and 2005 when the United States was actively involved in Iraq. Soldiers from these two groups constitute 53% of veteran suicides from this period. Of the 144 suicides during this time, 24% were from those who served in the Reserves and 29% from members of the National Guard.

Paul Riedhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America believes there has been inaequate counselling available to these veterans and the continued pressure of being away from families over an extended time period, has been damaging to many who served. “National Guardsmen and reservists are literally in Baghdad one week and in Brooklyn the next, and the transition is tough.”

The nation has asked tremendous sacrifices of those in the National Guard or Reserves. They are deployed for 18 months from family and their careers, and, all too frequently head back for anothe 18 months. The United States of America has failed these gallant individuals by refusing to either curtail such military ventures or obtaining the necessary manpower to carry them out. This is simply another legacy of Bush’s tragic mistakes in the Middle East.

US Military In Need Of Mental Health Facilities

Sgt. Todd Bowers, head of the 80,000 member Afghanistan Veterans of America, told Congress there is need for mandatory, confidential, mental health screening before and after deployment of troops. He complained the present system of screening just is not working. “Troops may not be filling out their forms accurately, troops needing counseling are not consistently getting referrals and those with referrals do not always get treatment. He believes at least half of the soldiers and Marines who test positive for needed counseling believe they will be judged weak by their comrades-in-arms for seeking such assistance. Bowers also noted seeking counseling is not an attractive notation to have in one’s file. He called for: a moratorium on discharge of personnel for personality disorders until there has been a complete overhaul of procedures, and making certain in cases of suicide attempts, counseling rather than prosecution is available.

These are sensible recommendations that should be accepted.

The Under Reported Tragedies Of Iraq-Losing Homes In USA

Among the most ignored stories related to the war in Iraq is its impact on the lives of those who serve abroad while being screwed at home. Rep. Bob Finer, Dem. Calif, has become interested in the impact of the housing crisis upon members of the military. The American dream is owning one’s home, but at a time of war, this can be a terrible burden. “We all know this dream can become a nightmare,” Finer recently told a group,”especially for our veterans who are on deployment.” San Diego Country is home to 110,000 active duty military members and since January of this year it has witnessed a doubling of mortgage defaults. Pamela Beard of the Housing Opportunities Board repeatedly encounters situations like the National Guardsman who experienced an income drop from $60,000 a year to $20,000 a year when ordered into active duty. His mortgage payment rose from $1,200 a month to $2,500.

The US government must begin to address issues being faced by those on deployment. It is necessary for the VA to become a major source of refinancing funds for those who have been called to active duty. WWII veterans received low cost housing loans, something which should be brought back during this current crisis.

Wounded Soldier- Pay Up, Not Our Fault You Got Shot!

A soldier whose wounds in iraq forced him to leave the military early got the shock of his life when he opened the mail and found a letter from the United States Army asking him to repay of portion of his sign-up bonus. Pfc. Jordan Fox was asked to repay $2,800 of his $7,500 enlistment bonus because he did not serve out the entire length of time. The military is now checking to find out if any other wounded soldiers received such an idiotic letter. Jordan was partially blinded in the right eye as a result of a roadside bomb. Perhaps, the military felt since he only got blinded in one eye, he was perfectly fit to fire a weapon with the other good eye.

This is just another example of how so many of those brave young men and women who serve in Iraq have been treated. We have a president who argued against the 3.5% pay increase proposed by Democratic congressmen because it was excessive and he initially opposed increasing funding for the VA until forced by the Democratic Party.

Mr. Bush– One In Eight Veterans Lacks Health Insurance!

President Bush has consistently accused Democratic opponents for their failure to “support our troops” and at tempted to portray himself as the defender of those who fight or have fought for this country. A new study from researchers at the Harvard Medical School report that about 1.8 million veterans under the age of 65 lack medical coverage in the United States of America. As the report notes, “Like other uninsured Americans, most uninsured vets are working people– too poor to afford private coverage, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care.” Dr. Jeffrey Scavron in a biting remark pointed out, “only the government can put men and women into military service and only the government can guarantee that they are covered after they serve.” The report only points out that beginning in 2003, the Veterans administration began denying medical care for those whose salary was too high. Peter Gaytan, who monitors veterans’ issues for the American Legion, claims veterans who now make a little over $24,000 a year no longer qualify for VA care because they have high salaries!

I am certain President Bush’s response will be that anyone in America who needs medical care can go to the nearest Emergency Room and be treated. The denial of health benefits for ANYONE WHO SERVED is an insult to men and women who risked their lives in the service of their country. Then again, Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush administration got out of serving their country so they could make money. I doubt if any of those people uses Emergency Rooms as the primary access to medical care.

Congress Takes Action On Veteran Suicides

One of the most under reported stories in American politics is the work of the Democratic Congress to reform treatment of veterans that became a national scandal of the Bush administration. Several bills have been passed to extend assistance to veterans in need of counseling and to protect family members who must leave their jobs to care for a wounded veteran. On Tuesday, Congress passed a suicide prevention bill to confront problems arising from ever increasing evidence that many veterans are resorting to suicide. According to Congressman Bob Filner, chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, “as many Vietnam veterans have now committed suicide as died in the original war. That’s over 58,000.” The new bill requires mental health training for VA staff, screen suicide risk factors for veterans who receive VA care, refer at-risk veterans for counseling and treatment, and designate a suicide prevention counselor at each VA medical facility. It also allocates funds for out-reach programs to families.

These obviously necessary steps should have been taken years ago. A bill passed in 2007 about veterans who have been dying for years is a sad commentary on how this nation assists its veterans.

Legislation For Wounded Soldiers Pushed In Congress

President Bush urged Congress to modernize the government’s inefficient system that cares for the wounded. Several months ago, Bush appointed a bipartisan commission to examine issues related to dealing with wounded soldiers and veterans. Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Donna Shalala headed a commission which made recommendations, but both stated in an op-ed piece appearing in the Washington Post they feared their proposals would be lost in the bureaucracy and urged a complete reform program. “It’s time,” said their article, “to decide –do we reform the current military and veterans’ disability evaluation and compensation systems or limp along, placing Band-Aids over existing flaws?” Bush informed Congress the “outdated system needs to be changed.”

George Bush is master of creating problems and then blaming others for the problems he created. He appointed political hacks to run the Veterans Administration resulting in veterans being denied benefits, and he did not do his job to organize a medical system ready to cope with Iraq wounded military personnel. Now, the president is “prodding Congress” to get to work. At no point does Bush ever take responsibility for his own failures, he prefers blaming Democrats. The idea for a Homeland Security Department came from Democrat members of Congress and Bush opposed it. Within a few months it became his idea and Democrats were then accused of not being patriotic for insisting on certain procedures in the new department. Bush is trying the same old scam about wounded soldiers.

Bush Tries To Impede Reform Of Military Disabilty Plans

Most Americans are unaware of the Bush administration fiasco regarding awarding disability payments to those wounded in action. Prior to the Democrats gaining control of Congress, the Veterans Administration and the Defense Department had unusual methods of evaluating disability ratings. In many cases, wounded officers received higher disability ratings than those given enlisted men. Early this year, Democratic legislators began a complete overhaul of the disability rating system in order to ensure fairness and consistency. Suddenly, just as House and Senate conferees were ready to finalize a bill, the president demanded they halt and allow the VA to make their own revisions. He also wanted VA and Defense Department revisions not subject to review by Congress.

As one lawmaker said in reacting to the Bush request: “This late in the process, it is hard to say why the Bush administration would suddenly be coming up with a new plan unless their purpose was to delay legislation.” Right wing pundits enjoy casting Democrats as failing to “support the troops” but have never uttered a word of complaint about Bush administration failures to have a fair system of evaluating those wounded in combat. Nor have they praised Democratic legislators for stepping in and devising a fair system of evaluation. Exactly, who is “supporting the troops?”