Monday, November 12, 2007

Thoughts on Veterans Day

Today, hundreds of events around the country honor military veterans. Politicians will give speeches, smile, and congratulate themselves on their patriotism.

Right-wing pundits and supporters of Bush's war will use the day to push their pro-war agenda. From their air-conditioned offices, they will urge the continued sacrifice of those who serve and their families.

But what of America's veterans? According to a recent study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 195,827 veterans were homeless on a given night in 2006, and almost twice that number of veterans went without a home at some point in 2006.

The scandal at Walter Reed hospital showed the impact of privatization (and the right-wing ideology of the free market at all costs) on the declining care provided veterans. Thousands wait for months at a time for needed care. A Bush administration policy of raising fees for services and of simply not telling vets about their eligibility for various programs may have saved money but it has hit veterans hard.

Poverty among vets is on the rise as well. Almost half a million vets pay more than half their income in housing costs. Most of these fall below the federal poverty line, and more than 4 in 10 survive on food stamps.

Veterans returning home from Bush's war are finding it hard to get their old jobs. Many suffer from unemployment or are forced into lower-paying positions.

A Harvard study finds that 1.8 million vets lack health care insurance and close to four million members of veterans families also lack coverage.

It is good that the Democrats in Congress have begun the fight to change this situation by passing laws the expand eligibility and help cover more health problems of returning vets. More funding has been found to improve hospital care.

But until there is an administration that actually cares for people and cares to fund services to protect the health and well-being of those people who selflessly sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and the well-being of their families – even if it was for a lie in Iraq – veterans will get the short end of the stick.

It is utterly offensive that the Bush administration – full of men and women who refused to serve when they were called upon to do so – now demands the continued sacrifice of the men and women who didn't shrink from what they saw as their duty.

On this Veterans Day, let's remember the people who served. Let's remember their needs. Forget smiling politicians with their cynical agendas.

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