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Treatment of Veterans -- A National Disgrace

Too many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have had to wait inordinate lengths of time—some, a year or more—to have their claims for disability benefits processed by the VA. We are all properly outraged when we see news reports about this national disgrace.

Part of the problem is mushrooming claims from two simultaneous wars of more than 10 years duration, involving 2.5 million Americans who have served in combat zones, one-third of them on multiple deployments. The number of traumatic head injuries, amputations, PTSD cases, and other serious wounds has overwhelmed the VA. The incidence of PTSD has not only affected VA claims, it has also contributed to record numbers of veterans and active service personnel committing suicide in recent years.

If there's one thing I learned as a naval officer, it's that military commanders look after subordinates. That goes for the Commander-in-Chief, too. For all his admirable qualities, President Obama's failure to remedy this problem—after declaring the VA to be "broken" during his 2008 campaign and promising to fix it—was distressing. President Trump's administration, so far, inspires little confidence that it can solve any problem, let alone one of this magnitude.

We can hold people accountable at all levels in the chain of command and throughout the halls of Congress, but it is we, the American public, who are truly culpable. To borrow from 17th century English poet Francis Quarles,
God and the soldier, all men adore,
In time of danger and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.

For a nation that prides itself, almost above all else, on its "can do" attitude toward any challenge, it is both incomprehensible and shameful that we have not demanded better of the bureaucracy that is supposed to be serving our veterans.

We call them heroes, these men and women we send to war . . . but talk is cheap. Let's start treating them like heroes.
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