Are we better at creating, or caring for veterans?

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 14, 2015

Republican congressmen do way too much flag waving for folks who refuse to support veterans in important ways when they get home. So let’s consider if we do a better job of creating veterans or of caring for them.

Veteran healthcare has been the subject of many news stories. From PTSD to traumatic brain injuries to suicide among both veterans and active military, the numbers are staggering. There are 22 veteran/active duty military suicides a day. There are many studies now trying to determine the cause of the high rate but most agree the large number of suicides is healthcare related. Since 2009, the VA has enlarged their staff and medical professionals including 3,500 mental health care providers. What has Congress done? The answer is nothing. The day after we celebrated Veterans’ Day, Republicans refused to pass the $1.3 billion proposed VA budget which would have allowed the VA to continue to streamline processing, and hire more healthcare providers including the mental health field. Their plan for the $1.3 billion included expanding the hospital facilities to cut wait times in seeing a doctor or have tests. Congress wants to privatize the VA Hospitals so private companies can put veteran care versus shareholder profits. We all know how efficient that is.

Homelessness is another glaring problem that has been ignored by Congress. It is estimated that over 50,000 veterans were homeless in 2014. Statistics show 91 percent are male, 98 percent are single, 76 percent live in the city and 54 percent are disabled. Post-Afghanistan, the face of the homeless veteran is becoming younger, female and head of the household; and in the next 10 to 15 years, homelessness could increase drastically among those over 55. The president has expanded the GI Bill, job training and incentives to employers who hire veterans. Recently, the president also issued an executive order providing all veterans with in-state tuition as they return to school for continuing education or vocational training. First Lady Michele Obama and Dr. Jill Biden created the Joining Forces program to bring attention to the unique strength of our military families who are tested by multiple, prolonged deployments by one or both parents. This program is multi-faceted and is best read at

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There are an estimated 1.5 million veterans/active military using food stamps with $84 million spent in the commissaries. It is estimated that 2,000 to 22,000 active duty military use food stamps. Last year, congress cut the food stamp allotment to 90,000 veterans. Currently, the White House and Democratic congressmen have proposed a 1.3 to 2.3 percent pay raise to help relieve some of this dependence. However, Republican congressmen want to tack raises into the Pentagon budget that feeds the war machine A/K/A, defense contractors. Democrats just want the pay raises and also want to make the raises retroactive; so deadlock continues.

Next time we demand “boots on the ground,” let’s make sure we are welcome and do no harm, can make a positive difference, have an exit strategy, deploy all classes of the society. Make no mistake, the most important consideration in entering another engagement can only be that we   must provide sufficient money and a plan for the disabled veterans, widows and orphans we create.

By Agnes Dalton.