Veterans & Disability: An Open Letter to the Politicians of America
Synopsis: Letter to the Politicians of America regarding veterans service and disability.1
Author: Thomas C. Weiss Contact: Disabled World
Dear Commander in Chief,
It is with great dismay that many Americans witness the continued presence of American soldiers in Afghanistan and other nations. The thought that has crossed my mind repeatedly is, 'America is not taking care of the veterans it already has.' From what I understand, New Orleans has become the first city in America to end homelessness among veterans. I find this to be outrageous, every single veteran in America must have food, clothing, shelter, transportation, healthcare and employment. If politicians and high members of the Department of Defense cannot promote adequate legislation to ensure the care of veterans, those politicians and members of the Department of Defense have no legitimacy.
The President has stated that the need to remain in Afghanistan is one associated with the gains we have made. The President has stated that America needs to remain in Afghanistan and other nations because of the Taliban. The President has ordered troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond his Presidency. America has been in Afghanistan for fourteen years.
Another thought that has crossed my mind is, 'American soldiers have not won anything or changed much in Afghanistan.' The time to recognize the fact that we have not is now. Young and healthy Americans are being sent to a futile effort in a nation with no appreciation for our continued presence. It is time to pull every American soldier out of Afghanistan. It is also time to recognize the fact that our veterans are in great need and to take care of them. Heck, disabled veterans don't even have access to the commissary.
The Safety of America
The thought among some is that America is far better off fighting, 'terrorists,' a word used way too often in political dialog, while they are still, 'over there.' My thought is that if our soldiers were here at home, the Taliban and other terror groups would find themselves having to come to America to fight, something I very seriously doubt they have the ability to pursue. The NSA spies on American citizens who have done absolutely nothing wrong; perhaps the NSA can keep terrorists off of American soil if they do their job.
In America, healthy young Americans are fighting for decent-paying jobs. They are fighting to deal with national financial fallout due to Wall Street. These healthy young Americans are the same people the military wants to serve in the military. Don't these young and healthy people deserve every single respect all Americans, Politicians and corporations have to offer? They are the ones who defend this nation, failing them greatly reduces the legitimacy of the politicians of America, most of whom have never served in the military.
The Soldiers Who Serve
At the age of 18 I joined the Army because I was, and still am, proud of America. At this point, I view corporations and the politicians who have been purchased by these corporations to be an entirely different country, one of itself and devoid of respect for those who are serving or have served. While I am still very proud to be an American, I consider corporations and politicians to be in an entirely different country and therefore unworthy of my vote or support. Why do I have such a perspective?
Americans have carried the costs of war as parents, spouses, children and friends deal with their loved ones' absence, mourn their deaths, or greet the changed person who often returns. Many formerly healthy young Americans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq face a lifetime of disability because of the physical and psychological injuries they sustained while in war zones. At least 970,000 veterans have some degree of officially recognized disability because of the wars. Many more veterans live with physical and emotional scars, despite a lack of service-connected disability status.
My own service was not glorious by any means; I had a heat stroke on base and found myself with epilepsy for the remainder of my life. The military gave me a 10% disability rating and said, 'Adios.' I had to fight for a 40% rating, something no veteran should have to do. Seizures have nearly killed me on more than one occasion due to status epilepticus. In my opinion, every veteran with a service-connected form of disability should have one status, 'Disabled.' The rating system is very prejudiced against those who have served. Every single veteran with a form of service-connected disability must be rated at 100%; they served and America owes them.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been harder for military families than prior wars, with more frequent deployments and shorter periods of time at home. In comparison to the civilian population, Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans are facing elevated rates of both mental illness and suicide, car crashes, alcohol and drug dependence, as well as homelessness. Veterans and their family members also experience higher rates of divorce, child abuse, homicide and child neglect.
When soldiers return home with injuries and forms of disabilities, it is often times their family members who provide care for them, even when veterans are housed in military hospitals. The offloading of care for the war wounded onto families and community organizations has been an express part of military planning and needs to count among the costs of war.
"All that can be said with any certainty is that as of last December more than 900,000 service men and women had been treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics since returning from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the monthly rate of new patients to these facilities as of the end of 2012 was around 10,000. The 1 million mark, though bleak, does not necessarily reflect a drastic increase in the number of catastrophic injuries. Earlier this year, I reported that of the more than 50,000 service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who are considered polytrauma patients, 1,600 have moderate to severe brain injuries, 1,400 are amputees, and 900 were severely burned. Since then, about 200 service members have lost limbs in a combat zone." - Forbes
The Veterans of America
The statistics related to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are horrendous. Nearly 60% of veterans who were retired from the military in 2012 due to a form of service-connected disability were under the age of thirty-five. Bear in mind that 73.4% of all American veterans have a Veterans Administration (VA) service-connected disability rating. Where suicide is concerned, 22 veterans commit suicide Each Day. Every month, almost 1,000 veterans try to take their own lives, more than one attempt every half hour. Suicides among active duty personnel almost equals one each day, or 349 each year. These veterans are the young people who struggled to live a decent life while living in America, lives spent trying to make the rent, pay bills, pay for healthcare and more.
Where employment upon return from service is concerned, 76.3% of veterans with a VA service-connected disability rating believe their disability is currently preventing them from obtaining or holding a job. I do not find this to be surprising at all - corporations are greatly biased in favor of cheap, young labor. It is my suggestion that these corporations have no respect for America at all, they are denying healthy young Americans who go on to serve in the military, all while presenting the same denial to veterans who have managed to return from wars.
More than two million American children have dealt with a parent going to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of these children from military families, more than 500,000 have become clinically depressed. Meanwhile, according to data compiled by the American Legion, the number of veterans serving in Congress is at its lowest point in forty years. Only one President; James Buchanan, served America in the armed forces.
In other words, American citizens are paying all of the costs of these wars. Politicians and corporations certainly do not come home with forms of disabilities, or even in a pine box. America spends several times as much on military hardware and activities than several other nations combined. Young and healthy Americans are being sent to wars with no real purpose, only to return with forms of disabilities or dead. Politicians and corporations cannot even seem to give these young, healthy Americans the time of day where decent wages and living standards are concerned. It is time for all Americans to ask, 'How much blood must be shed, how many of our youngest and brightest must return with disabilities or dead, before the war machine driven by American politicians and their desire for nation-building have finally quenched their thirst for blood?'
The veterans with disabilities in America are being ignored, to be plain. Yes, you may see ads by the VA or branches of the military that make things appear otherwise, but the facts cannot be ignored. Americans are suffering; veterans are as well. Yet adequate legislation to ensure that young, healthy people and veterans who have served have the things they need to live has not been signed. No one who will or has served in the military should ever, ever want for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, healthcare or employment; ever. It is my sincere suggestion that you, as Commander in Chief, along with members of Congress and the Department of Defense, very seriously begin to take care of the soldiers you state you are so very proud of. Right now, you are not.
Thomas C. Weiss
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