Saturday, August 13, 2005

"It's About Time We Got You Guys Off Welfare"--So says a Bush Supporter About Payments to Disabled Veterans

“It’s about time we got you guys off welfare”
By: Jack Dalton 8-13-05

“It’s about time we got you guys off welfare.” That’s what I was told by a good loyal supporter of this Bush/Cheney war of choice in downtown Portland. He was sporting one of those “yellow ribbons.” I had just left the rally in support of Cindy Sheehan and was on my way home, and those yellow ribbons just really hit me wrong. I had read a report that the V.A. was going to
“review” 72,000 disabled veterans’ claims who are receiving disability payments for combat related PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) for “fraud.” In fact, we were talking about that at the rally today as a lot of us that were there are members of VFP-72 (Veterans for Peace) and combat vets; and this affects us directly. The only “fraud” being perpetuated is the one Bush/Cheney have perpetuated on this nation.

Being a disabled veteran myself (Vietnam 1965-67) and an active anti-Iraqnam war activist, those yellow ribbons just over-load my good sense sometimes, I confronted the guy right there in the middle of downtown Portland (which on a Saturday is one very busy place) about yellow ribbons; supporting the troops; what that really means as well as what is being done to veterans by this Bush/Cheney cabal. I must add though, none of this would have happened if not for the nasty comments he and his friends made about the 3 x 4 sign on the side of my wheelchair--it was a sign in support of Cindy Sheehan and bring the troops home now. Combined with the yellow ribbons they were wearing, I just couldn't let it slide. By the time it was over all he could muster was the “welfare” comment.

But I have heard that same kind of statement before. Just recently, David Chu, at the Department of Wars’ Pentagon, told us all that, “…continued payments to veterans presents a threat to our national security, as it is taking needed funds away from the military…” Chu has oversight of the V.A. budget as it, V.A. budget, now has also got to compete with active duty military family housing, active duty healthcare which Chu also has oversight of.

What’s scary though, is not people like the man I confronted today, statements like that from party loyalists are expected, it’s veterans who still support this madness Bush/Cheney have unleashed. One guy, a Korean War vet in a wheelchair, is still fighting with the V.A. over his healthcare and sporting a pro-Bush pin and yellow ribbon; but he is not the alone.

For the love of whatever you hold dear my “fellow” veterans discontinue your support of, and for those who have lied this nation into war,
Bush/Cheney & Co., Inc, and who have total disregard for those who have “borne the brunt of battle”—us veterans; you, me, my friends and your friends—and the kids that have been sent off to Iraq who are coming back to a rapidly vanishing V.A.

I have a very good friend who is a Chaplin at a V.A. facility. Recently he wrote me in reply to a couple of questions I asked him. I am not going to give his name or the V.A. he works at for as I am concerned for him. He is a Vietnam veteran as well as being a preacher. I do not want to chance bring more “heat” on him than what he already has:

“My Friend and brother,
I am well…Hot as hades and the sweat pours like rain. Because I have confronted our director a number of times in the past three years and won (the term winning is suspect) I am on the outside looking in so instead of being proactive, I am forced to be reactive. All of this is said to let you know that I do not get the scoop on anything. All in all, morale is quite low and the deficit and overwork and stretching the dollar to the extreme has people sniping at one another and the distrust is rampant. I try to stay centered and remember what I am about and help people laugh. On a personal level--I am sickened by what our "leaders" are doing and educating any young people I can on the Biblical view of Pacifism--I have stopped watching the news because it is so slanted. Other than that all is well and I am off to…for a couple of days…
Peace and love.”

Congress, while patting each other on the back for the recent emergency supplemental for the V.A., has nothing to cheer about. People knew this was going to be the result when an addition $2 billion for the V.A. was rejected soundly earlier in 2004 when the 2005 budget was being voted on. They knew and didn’t give a damn. If those in Washington really cared, the V.A. budget would be a mandatory item.

S 1042, the Department of War budget for 2006 was passed by both parties in congress recently. But not before an amendment that would have made the V.A. budget mandatory was removed, and left it as it is now: a year to year discretionary budget item competing with active duty military healthcare and family housing. Take a look below, at what those that pontificate about “support the troops” prevented from being a part of S. 1042—take a look at how much they care about veterans; about those they are turning into veterans who are just now coming back from Iraq, scared in body, mind and spirit.

Also keep in mind that those doing these things, themselves have never served this nation in uniform, with rare exception, let alone ever having seen war up close and personal—and that especially includes George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, “
chickenhawks”, one and all.

“Republicans block amendments to provide health care to veterans. Senate Republicans' efforts to stop debate on S. 1042 could mean that the following efforts to support our nation's veterans will not receive consideration:
http://democrats.senate.gov/dpc/dpc.cfm?A=fs&B=109&C=1&D=76

Guaranteeing adequate health care from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA):
#The May 2003 report of The President's Task Force To Improve Health Care Delivery For Our Nation's Veterans found that "there is a significant mismatch in VA between demand and available funding - an imbalance that...if unresolved, will delay veterans' access to care and could threaten the quality of VA health care." Task Force members supported the creation of a funding mechanism providing guaranteed funding for VA health care each year. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has opposed Democratic efforts to enact the recommendation of the President's own commission and, as a result, the VA has been drastically shortchanged. Recently, VA Secretary Nicholson testified that the VA may experience a total funding shortfall for Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006 as great as $4.5 billion dollars. To enact the recommendation of the President's commission and ensure that our veterans receive adequate health care, Senator Stabenow has offered an amendment to provide guaranteed health care funding for the VA each year.

Ensuring that the VA can provide health care for new veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan:
Secretary Nicholson testified that an underestimation of the number of wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan was one major reason for the VA funding shortfall. Indeed, the Department of Defense has reported only roughly 13,500 casualties in Iraq, while the Air Force Surgeon General reports that 55,000 service members have been evacuated from Iraq, and Secretary Nicholson testified that over 100,000 veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan will be treated by the VA this year. The discrepancy in these numbers demonstrates a serious problem in the Defense Department's casualty reporting system which makes it impossible for policymakers to accurately predict the resources the VA needs to ensure that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will receive the care they need. In response, Senator Johnson has introduced an amendment to improve the Defense Department's casualty reporting system in order to ensure that policymakers receive the information they need to fully support the newest generation of veterans.”

So, here we are at what it was I read that so ignited me today when I saw that man and his friends with all their nice neat little yellow ribbons on their chests. Keep in mind that the majority of the 72,000 disabled veterans that are under review are Vietnam veterans. Some of whom fought the V.A. for decades, now only to come under the “gun” again by this government; by this country.

Post Traumatic Stress: Sticker Shock over Shell Shock
The US government is reviewing 72,000 cases in which veterans have been diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, claiming that misdiagnosis and fraud have inflated the numbers. Outraged vets say the plan is a callous attempt to cut the costs of an increasingly expensive war.
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/080905L.shtml

That “civilians” blindly follow under the Bush/Cheney” banner, well, that’s one thing, but for veterans, who are victims of a grossly under-funded V.A. to follow under that Bush/Cheney banner is inexcusable. For to do so is to side against fair and just treatment of your fellow veterans and those who are coming back from the war in Iraq Bush/Cheney sent them into.

We also know that many, an inordinate number, are coming back from Iraq with raging PTSD. But this government is looking at the dollar cost and is shaking as a result. So what do they do, eliminate those on the service connected rolls and make it almost impossible for anyone else—like those coming back from Iraq no longer knowing where they belong--to “qualify” as service connected disabled for combat related PTSD. And at the same time, they send even more to Iraq.

So much for supporting the troops; so much for supporting the nation’s veterans.

For more information on just what veterans in this nation are up against and fighting for see:

Vets for Justice
http://www.vetsforjustice.com/

Veterans for Peace Chapter 72
http://www.dunckleystreet.com/vfpchapter72/


Jack Dalton is a disabled Vietnam veteran and writer/activist that lives in Portland, OR. He is widely published on the internet and may be emailed at:
jack_dalton@comcast.net

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