Tom Cory & Army Dad can Tell Why Recruitment is Down
Tom Corey the President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) can tell the nation why military recruitment is down.
By Bobby “Army Dad” Hanafin, ILCA Associate
Three things inspired me to write this article. One, as most of you know, is having a Soldier on his second “combat” tour in Iraq, two hearing the news that certain GOP politicians are blaming “critics” in Congress who question the Iraq War for the failure of the Pentagon to meet military recruitment rates, and three receiving my May/June Issue of The VVA Veteran Magazine. (Page. 5 & 6)
That issue had coverage of an exchange on the House floor in Congress between Tom Corey, President of VVA and Congressman Steve Buyer (R.IN), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. I came away from reading that exchange understanding more about a “combination” of reasons why parents are not and will not allow their youngsters to “fight and die” in any war based on questionable causes or vague objectives. It is not only because they don’t want to see their child maimed or worse yet killed. It is also because they do not want them treated like crap as a whole generation of Vietnam Veterans were and are treated by “their government” NOW.
Congressman Steve Buyer and token Veterans of his ilk are throwing Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans observances across the nation trying desperately to drum up “patriotic” recruits for Bush’s war machine in Iraq. Based on what VVA President Corey had to say, I’d be ashamed to show up at one of these if I were a Vietnam Veteran. Why? Because they are sponsored by the Pentagon.
Well on with my report:
New War Veterans
Mr. Corey speaking to Congress: I know that many of you have visited Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) returnees at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center or Walter Reed Army Medical Center or at a military hospital or a VA facility in your home state. Most of you have some idea of the trials and dangers of military service poses to those who are intimately acquainted with its violence and deprivations.
Most Americans, and many of your colleagues, are not intimately acquainted with the sacrifices made by those who have donned the uniform and placed themselves in harm’s way to defend the Constitution and the liberties we hold dear. It should be clear to all who have visited with wounded service members that even training for war can sometimes be dangerous. The resources simply must be there to properly care for them all. We leave no veteran behind. This care must be considered part of a continuing cost of national defense.
Many of us have grown weary of the tired platitudes and empty praise of our troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? Because when they come home - some of them physically broken, too many of them mentally or emotionally shattered - we hear that these newly minted veterans somehow will drain the national treasury.
The Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness for the Department of Defense, the same Pentagon having problem recruiting, is quoted as saying. “The cost of veterans’ benefits are taking away from the nation’s ability to defend itself.” This is absurd and shameful, and an apology to every veteran and their family is warranted. He particularly owes an apology to the “survivors” he criticized as costing too much, especially the children who will grow up without their father or mother. We are disappointed and surprised that the Undersecretary has not disavowed or backed away from this statement. We are even more disappointed that neither the Secretary of Defense nor the White House has disassociated themselves from these remarks. (APPLAUSE)
Rid the VA Rolls of "Affluent" Veterans
We have seen the attempt to rid the VA rolls of “affluent” veterans not only in VA long-term strategic planning documents, but also in a February 7 press release that attempted to put a rosy spin on the $70.8 billion budget request for that agency’s operations. No fewer than five times is it noted therein that with the funding provided in the President’s proposal the VA “will be able to care for those veterans who count on VA the most.” This is dishonest and does a distinct disservice to veterans. This is a blatant attempt to circumvent the law and the will of the American people.We have also heard statements that VA should only focus on making sure the poorest and most severely injured veterans continue to receive “free” medical care from the Veterans Health Administration. It has been alleged that “affluent,” uninjured veterans currently exploit the low-cost health care system and that if changes are not made, the quality of care at VHA could suffer.
First, VVA notes that care at the VHA medical system is not “free,” but has been pre-paid by virtue of military service. Additionally, veterans “co-payments” that are not an inconsiderable source of income to VHA. Most telling, by whose measure is earning $25,000 a year considered affluent anywhere in America, much less in our high-cost metropolitan areas? How many of you in this hearing room (in CONGRESS) today would like to raise a family in any metropolitan area in America on $25,000 a year?
Chairman Buyer, VVA must tell you that many of your public comments and statements in the past months have been taken by our members as a direct and personal attack on their honor and integrity, as a group and as individuals. (APPLAUSE)
The dollar difference between those who make more than $25,000 a year but less than what might be considered “affluent” is very great. Chairman Buyer, you have attacked veterans’ service organizations as self-serving and out of touch with their members. These remarks have been widely reported in the veterans’ community and within our organization. It is not an exaggeration to say that our members are furious about what they see as an attack on us as a group and each of them as individual veterans who served their country.
VVA has no wish to prolong this exchange, nor to deviate focusing on the needs of veterans, and not on parties, partisan politics, or personalities. We have no wish to engage in personal exchanges and remarks with anyone, much less elected Senators or Members of the House of Representatives, particularly those of you on the Veterans Affairs Committees. VVA is keenly aware that many of you have the seniority to move to other committees, but that you choose to stay because of your strong commitment to veterans. VVA encourages a free, open, and even intense debate on the issues of vital importance to veterans.
We also ask of the Executive branch: (Army Dad thinks Mr. Corey means Mr. Bush) Where in statute does it say that the VA will serve a “core constituency” of “veterans who count on VA the most”? There is no citation in Title 38 of the United States Code. Indeed, if it is the belief of some that the United States narrows the parameters of eligibility of our nation’s veterans for VA services, then we would hope you will be open and forthright and move to change the law though open hearings and a national debate. We have said this before and we’ll say it again: The cost of caring for those who served in the military is an integral part of the cost of the national defense. It is up to you, the members of the Congress who must agree on what programs and services are to take precedence in funding, to consider this–and honor this–as you deliberate the administration’s budget proposal. Caring for veterans is not a Democratic cause. It is not a Republican effort. It is an American issue, one that cuts across all party lines.
More than Plastic Yellow Ribbons
(Army Dad believes Mr. Corey’s referring to those magnetic yellow ribbons we all see on vehicles here.) VVA also calls for a national, coordinated plan to meet the needs of the men and women serving in the military today. The pretense that everything is just fine is not true, and does a disservice to those who have served us so well, and serve us now. There must be a comprehensive effort akin to what America did for World War II veterans from 1944 to 1949. It is time to hold convocation of public officials, veteran’s organizations, recent returnees, and leaders from the private sector to fashion a truly comprehensive response to the needs of veterans today. Let us not distort and further injure and impede another generation of American veterans as happened to Vietnam veterans in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Elements of such a plan must include halting efforts by the Department of Defense to pretend that PTSD is not a major problem, and discovering methods to address it. It must also include a real effort toward transition assistance that is meaningful in terms of meeting health care, employment, and small business assistance of returning active-duty veterans as well as mobilized National Guard & Reserve troops. Such an effort will give real meaning to what is otherwise the empty promise of plastic yellow ribbons.
You can read VVA President Corey’s full testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee which was given on April 14, 2005 at:
After reading this passionate speech, Army Dad was inspired (and reminded) to send in his last LIFE MEMBERSHIP payment.
Bobby “Army Dad” Hanafin, ILCA Associate
Sources: The VVA Veteran Magazine (Pages 5&6) and http://www.vva.org/legiss/2005/041405.htm