"One of the things the US has always done well is take care of its vets..."
So assumes Scott Weisman, a financial executive, in the video above. It is a logical assumption to make. The majority of the US public has a favourable opinion of the military – some 70%. They tend to oppose wars but they see servicemen and women as heroes. As we live in a democratic society, the public’s estimation of veterans must be reflected in the government’s treatment of veterans.
The reality is very, very different. Just as with recent wars, public opinion is not reflected in government policy when it comes to veterans.
18 veterans attempt suicide every day. A serviceman or woman is more likely to die in the US through suicide, drug overdose or risky activity, then whilst on active duty. The Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to deal with the epidemic of veteran suicides. Recent investigations into veteran suicides in California revealed that poor communication within the VA had failed the deceased. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accused the VA of “unchecked incompetence” and ordered an overhaul of support for mental health and disability issues. The department has appealed the order.
The problem is bigger than incompetence – the VA is severely underfunded. 1 million veterans are returning from the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Many need care for post-traumatic stress disorder, other mental health issues and physical injuries and disabilities. One in three women in the US military are sexually assaulted. 1 million returning veterans demands huge support from the state that sent them out to war.
Yet, Sen. Patty Murray (Democ-Wash) describes the VA’s budget for fiscal year 2013 as “deeply troubling.” Just as veteran needs are expanding massively, the VA’s budget has been cut for construction projects and non-recurring maintenance. This means that the VA cannot grow as it had identified to meet the needs of returning veterans and correct existing failings.
Congress’ budget cuts means veterans will continue to suffer – and attempt suicide. It comes as no surprise that an ardently militaristic political/business/military elite should neglect veterans. They prioritise resources for war and arms, ahead of veterans’ urgent needs.
Moreover, supporting veterans risks empowering them. Poll suggest the majority of servicemen and women and veterans, like the public, are opposed to the continued occupation of Afghanistan and wished for early departure from Iraq. This is a highly credible anti-war lobby – they really know what is going on in these occupations. The ruling elite cannot afford veterans to unite and campaign against war, so they must be kept quiet and needy, if at all possible.
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