Tag Archives: VA

This Memorial Day, support our troops by stopping the wars

By Kevin Basl. Published 5-25-2018 by People’s World

Vietnam Vets Against the War take part in an antiwar rally – 1970. Photo: flickr

“How do you motivate men and women to fight and die for a cause many of them don’t believe in, and whose purpose they can’t articulate?”

That’s what Phil Klay, author and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, asks in an essay published this month in The Atlantic. Unfortunately, he points out in a recent New York Times op-ed, “Serious discussion of foreign policy and the military’s role within it is often prohibited” by what he calls “patriotic correctness.”

In a well-functioning democracy, Klay argues, citizens must debate and question how their elected officials employ their military, an organization which ought to represent the values of the people. But it seems many Americans remain unconcerned about the wars the United States is currently fighting (at last count, we’re bombing at least seven countries) though they foot the bill both in tax dollars and lives. Continue reading

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Rethinking The Cost of War

What if casualties don’t end on the battlefield, but extend to future generations? Our reporting this year suggests the government may not want to know the answer

By Mike Hixenbaugh for The Virginian-Pilot, and Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. Published 1-1-2017 by ProPublica

The Department of Veterans Affairs Building on Vermont Avenue in Washington, DC. (Photo: JeffOnWire/flickr/cc)

This story was co-published with The Virginian-Pilot.

There are many ways to measure the cost of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War: In bombs (7 million tons), in dollars ($760 billion in today’s dollars) and in bodies (58,220).

Then there’s the price of caring for those who survived: Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs spends more than $23 billion compensating Vietnam-era veterans for disabilities linked to their military service — a repayment of a debt that’s supported by most Americans.

But what if the casualties don’t end there? Continue reading

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Working Together

Photo By The U.S. Army (Warrior Transition Brigade) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By The U.S. Army (Warrior Transition Brigade) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

America employs the largest volunteer military force in the world. In order to accomplish this without conscription, the government promises to take care of troops when they leave the service, including any injuries suffered while serving the nation.

Most men and women serving in the military do so out of a sense of duty and nationalism; family tradition, patriotic spirit or belief in the future of the country might all factor heavily in the individual decision. Regardless, they are recruited with not only the promise of education and specialized training, but also the benefit of health care.

The current backlog for veterans applying for disability benefits after returning from war is staggering. Some have waited as long as 1 or 2 years, and in 2013 it took an average of 378 days to process a claim, according to the annual report released by the VA.

Washington and the Pentagon seem to throw their hands up in despair, claiming they are doing the best they can. Yet we have heard no discussion about solutions that could actually get results and serve our veterans with less shameful failure. These men and women fought for our country. They shouldn’t have to fight for their own benefits. They shouldn’t die while waiting for paperwork.

To begin with, many veterans are looking for work. Why not use some of their understanding of veteran issues to expand the VA services personnel to accommodate the backlog? These men and women already have a working knowledge of “governmentesse,” the language used by the military. The vast usage of acronyms alone is enough to offer a multi-volume set of books. Veterans are better qualified than those who have never served to be able to complete this process of application efficiently and accurately.

Chuck Hagel answers questions at a town hall style meeting for disable veterans. January, 2014. Photo By Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Chuck Hagel answers questions at a town hall style meeting for disable veterans. January, 2014. Photo By Staff Sgt. Christopher Carwile [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Secondly, we could reassign people already working within the government that are experienced with disability claims. The Department of Education has their own disability division, which refuses to accept the disability claims approved through the Social Security Administration’s more than thorough disability process and determination. Their purpose is to make it virtually impossible for disabled students to qualify under their guidelines and prevent the discharge of remaining student loans if someone becomes disabled before those loans are paid off. With a bit of retraining to understand that the veterans DESERVE the benefits and it is the purpose of the VA to provide them, these people could assist the VA with the backlog.

The Department of Education needs to accept SSA disability determinations that entitle discharge of student loan debt to disabled students. This “way of doing business” is discriminatory and a waste of taxpayer money. It is belittling and humiliating to the disabled student. I would know – I am one they are doing it to.

I don’t know about you, but I happen to think caring for our troops is far more important than punishing disabled students.

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