Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You say you support the troops? Fine...Where's your outrage?

You know that things are bad for the wounded when they get back stateside when the Marine Corps sets up an entire regiment just to help repatriated wounded deal with the issues they face as they negotiate the DoD and VA health and benefit systems.

And let’s just get this right out in the open – our wounded are getting screwed over– from the abuses of the 5-13 discharge to the veterans turning up in homeless shelters because they have been denied benefits. The outrages are pervasive, manifest and vast. At this point, when an allegation is made, I am assuming to the veteran the benefit of the doubt. When as many wrongs are verified as have been proven in recent weeks, the assumption of malfeasance on the part of the government agency is justified.

It is time to radically change the way we are treating veterans. It is time to fully fund the VA, and if taxes have to go up, well, that's the price you pay for supporting an unnecessary vanity war. Think about that next time. But instead of giving vets the run around, provisionally approve every claim, and hire and train adequate staff to review the cases. But shift the burden of proof to the government, and leave it there.

I am not the only one saying this. Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard says the same thing and backs it up with research data. If 86% are ultimately approved for benefits, why are we making them run a gauntlet of obstacles and homelessness and denying them necessary care?

While we are retooling the system to protect our veterans from the capricious whims of a feckless government, let’s change the rules under which the 5-13 discharge can be applied. Every 5-13 should have to be reviewed by a panel of civilian mental health professionals before it can be issued.

I want to challenge all of the war-supporting congress-critters. Will just one of you step up for our wounded veterans and offer legislation to give our wounded veterans the benefits I just described?

I’ll be waiting.

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