Friday, May 23, 2014

No Surprise
     The current scandals at the Veterans Administration are alarming and embarrassing, but, unfortunately, not surprising.  We have gone through these past thirteen years of war with less than one percent of our nation's citizens having "skin in the game" and little real inquiry as to why we went to war in the first place and stayed for so long.  Now we are beginning to recognize the cost of such apathy.
     We have a history of treating veterans poorly as most believe the war is over when the last shot is fired or we withdraw.  For veterans a new phase of the war is just beginning.  In 1932 more than 17,000 veterans petitioning for early payment of their promised bonuses from their service in WWI were ejected forcibly from their nation's capital and their possessions burned; two were killed by members of the very Army in which they served.  The Viet Nam war ended in 1975 and from 1977 to 1993 more than 39,000 Agent Orange based claims were filed with the VA and 486 were granted.  Agent Orange causes cancer, and nerve, digestive, respiratory, and skin disorders among service members exposed to the toxic chemical defoliant employed by the US in Viet Nam.  Congress did not respond to this breach of trust with veterans until 1991 when it declared that certain conditions were "presumptive" to Agent Orange.  Finally, after the first Gulf War in 1991 approximately 250,000 of the 697,000 who served in the war were victims of Gulf War Syndrome.  Symptoms of the "syndrome" were fatigue, muscle pain, congestive problems, and skin rashes.  The VA consistently challenged the existence of the service relation and denied claims by veterans of that war.  Seventeen years after the war ended Congress mandated a study and claims were accepted.  For some it was too late.
     Our history of treating veterans poorly is well established and continues today.  It is part of a widening estrangement of citizens from their military driven by the fact that no American citizen is obligated to secure the freedoms, liberties, and security they have come to claim as entitlements.   

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