Monday, February 07, 2005

Stiffing the Vets -- Again

Just in time for our service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, our government (mostly Mr. Bush) is hunting ways to 'trim' the federal deficit and the Vets are about to get nailed. Though a few loyalists in the Vet's Administration say the president has been very generous in the past 4 years, the onslaught of services needed by the mentally and physically wounded from our Operation Freedom will tax the V.A. System beyond its capacity.

For the V.A.'s current situation, check out some of the Vet boards. They'll let you know about the hospitals being closed and the long waiting lists for services.

For those of you who have never stepped inside a V.A. Hospital and think it might be like your private hospital, let me set you straight. I can tell you what the V.A. was like in 1976-1977 so you judge how 'generous' out government has been in the past.

As part of my practical 'in hospital' training as a student nurse, I rotated through the V.A. Hospital in Iowa City while also providing care in private hospitals. I spent six weeks in the 'Locked Ward' - the psychiatric facility - and six weeks doing floor duty on their regular medical floors.

Mercy Hospital (a private hospital) had semi-private rooms and was clean, cheery and bustled with staff. The V.A. hospital had 16 bed wards, a throwback to an earlier time. The needles were the kind you sterilized and reused, sharpening the tips if they became dull. The hospital was busy dealing with Vietnam Vets as the war had just ended in 1975. The whole situation was depressing as hell. It was a tremendous eye-opener for me. I had always thought our country would give our Vets the best and I couldn't understand why my dad said he didn't want to go into a V.A. Hospital. Thankfully, he never did.

Do I blame the Vet's Administration? Not really. You can't improve the quality of your facilities and services without $$$. They do wonders with what they're given.

The fault lies at the government's feet and at present, on Mr. Bush's desk. Cutting services, increasing the fees we charge our Vets for the 'privilege' of using the services and long waiting lists are an insult to the men and women who've risked everything for us. The ultimate insult. It tells them they're mere cannon fodder, easily replaced by a new crop of eager recruits. Well, the recruits aren't so eager any more as the Iraq mess drags out. Meanwhile, we're creating a new generation of war-damaged soldiers who will need assistance for decades to come.

Lest you think this isn't a problem for society as a whole, according to the NY Times, 25% of the homeless on the streets of L.A. are veterans. Alcohol or drug addictions pull them down and often there is no way back up. Crime rates rise and our streets become increasingly dangerous. More police are needed as charitable organizations struggle to feed and aid those without a safety net. A recent article on AOL highlights the issue --

Our country had a cash reserve when Mr. Bush took office. He's spent it unwisely and now he wants to stiff the Vets for their work on his behalf and on behalf of our country. It's time to retrench, reverse those tax benefits for his rich friends and put the money into our armed forces.

To do any less is criminal...

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