Taking care of vets

Attention regarding the military is currently focused, understandably, mostly on the war in Iraq and, secondarily, Afghanistan and beyond. But given how this administration is pushing the military to the breaking point when it comes to personnel, rotations, recruiting, etc, the personal aspect of the military continues to be overlooked by most media and commentators. Recently Senator Webb’s bill to provide a new G.I. Bill has brought to much-needed focus to military and veterans issues, but the lack of support to veterans runs deeper than that.

The group Foreign Policy in Focus recently put out a report on veteran suicides, and their data indicates that more veterans commit suicide than are killed in combat overseas. From the report:

Eighteen American war veterans kill themselves every day. One thousand former soldiers receiving care from the Department of Veterans Affairs attempt suicide every month. More veterans are committing suicide than are dying in combat overseas.

These are statistics that most Americans don’t know, because the Bush administration has refused to tell them. Since the start of the Iraq War, the government has tried to present it as a war without casualties.

In fact, they never would have come to light were it not for a class action lawsuit brought by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth on behalf of the 1.7 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two groups allege the Department of Veterans Affairs has systematically denied mental health care and disability benefits to veterans returning from the conflict zones.

The Iraq war is especially problematic, I think, when it comes to psychological difficulties because of the combination of long and repeated tours, as well as the nature of counterinsurgency where everybody is a potential threat. The people who serve deserve better treatment from our government than they’re getting.

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