One of the ways that you can judge the character of a nation is by how they care for their military veterans. On this Memorial Day, we remember those who have fought and died defending the American Dream, but this should also be a day when we check and make certain that those who have served this country so bravely are being taken care of. Unfortunately, a cold, hard examination of the facts reveals that the U.S. government is doing a horrific job of caring for our military veterans. U.S. government officials seem to be able to do a great job of laying wreaths and holding ceremonies, but when it comes to actually getting military veterans the care and benefits that they desperately need, the attitude seems to be “deny, deny, deny until they die”.
The truth is that we have made it extremely difficult for our military veterans to claim the benefits that we have promised them. Vets have to fill out an absurdly complicated 23 page application and if they make even one small mistake their applications can be stonewalled for years. The U.S. Veterans Administration actually has a policy under which they pay large bonuses to employees that meet certain application processing goals. This explains why approximately 70% of the claims submitted to the Veterans Administration are refused or sent back to be redone. In fact, using the Freedom of Information Act, one local NBC station was able to learn that $250,000 was paid in bonuses to VA employees who work inside the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke, Virginia in just one year alone.
Not only that, but a report issued by the VA’s Office of Inspector General said the department issued millions of dollars in performance awards to employees nationwide over a two year period in 2007 and 2008.
According to CNN, one retired VA official was singled out for improperly approving a very large number of bonuses and the report said that she “acted as if she was given a blank checkbook to write unlimited monetary awards.”
Yes, you read all of that correctly.
We actually pay government employees huge bonuses for turning down the benefits applications of our military veterans.
Does that sound like America to you?
The reality is that the level of negligence at some VA offices can be absolutely shocking….
Back in 2009, a VA office in Detroit turned in 16,000 unprocessed mail and 717 unprocessed documents that were stuck in storage and hadn’t even been looked at. Many other documents were found in shredding bins, not just in one office but in several regional offices.
Things have gotten so bad that even 60 Minutes has done a report on the horrific treatment our veterans are receiving at the hands of the VA….
200,000 backlogged appeals?
Yes, you heard the video correctly.
But that 200,000 figure is just for backlogged appeals.
There are many more veterans who have been waiting months or even years for the VA to review their cases for the first time.
The following is a list of facts about the treatment of our veterans from the Veterans Services Transparency website….
•1,000,000 veterans, are currently waiting for the VA to review their cases, many have been waiting for years. And would you believe it, the VA is still telling many of them that “their records have been lost.” (Source of numbers: Veteran Affairs web-site)
•400,304 (42%) of the veterans returning from Gulf War II have symptoms of Gulf War illness and have asked the VA for help. By the VA’s own records, over 178,000 (45%) of these soldiers have possible mental disorders (including PTSD and Traumatic Brain Damage). (Source of numbers; Analysis of VA Health Care Utilization Among US Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) Veterans, January 2009, pages 7, 11)
•58% of the Gulf War II veterans are between the ages of 18 – 29. These young adults are not being told when they enlist that there is a greater than 40% chance their future will be destroyed or severely altered by Gulf War illness. (Source: January 2009 report – Veteran’s Affairs)
•Of 133,057 potentially eligible disabled retirees, 28,283 were denied retroactive pay awards and 8,763 died waiting for their cases to be heard. (Source: Congressional Report reported in the ArmyTimes on July 21, 2008)
•Since 2001 there have been over 575,000 cases of Gulf War illness and no documented cases of recovery. But there have been at least 6,500 documented deaths.
•175,000 Gulf War I veterans with serious and persistent health problems, Gulf War illness, have been waiting over 17 years for assistance from the VA. During this period the VA has denied applications over and over again, shredded records, hid unopened claims in storage, and actually altered original documents to fit the program of denial designed by the VA leadership. (Source of numbers: Page 17 – Gulf War Illness and Health of Gulf War Veterans – Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses)
It kind of makes you want to run out and sign up for the military, eh?
These young men and women have fought and have sacrificed for us.
Now they are being pushed aside like so much refuse.
But even the care that the VA does provide to our veterans is often so poor that it makes headline news.
Some time ago, ABC News did an investigation of VA hospital conditions across the United States. The following is a list of just some of the things that they found during the course of their investigation…..
*Bathrooms filthy with what appeared to be human excrement
*Dirty linens from some patients mixed in with clean supplies
*Examining tables that had dried blood and medications still on them
*Equipment used to sterilize surgical instruments that had broken down
*Some patients were forced to beg for food and water
*Veterans that were neglected so badly that they developed horrific bedsores and dangerous infections
But those are the vets that were able to get care.
Many others are still waiting.
ABC News found that getting a first appointment at a VA hospital can take months and months…..
Veterans who responded to a survey by the American Legion in 2003 said it took an average of seven months to get a first appointment at a VA hospital. In some hospitals, patients have waited as long as two years.
So should we be proud of all this?
Should we applaud the U.S. government on this Memorial Day for taking such great care of our veterans?
No, the truth is that we should all be ashamed at how our veterans are being treated.
But like so many other things involving the U.S. government, nothing is likely to change any time soon.
Once Memorial Day has passed, and all the wreaths have been laid, hundreds of thousands of disabled vets will continue to have their applications denied and the care that they so desperately need withheld from them.