Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Each of us Needs to Feel a Responsibility to Veterans

Texas Veterans need our support. When the nation rushes off to war, whether we have thought through the reasons why are not; most of us just go on with our lives as usual, insulated from the results of our nations acts. But the service men and women go and do their duty and some give their lives, and the rest come back changed for the experience.

Way too many veterans come home and die. They commit suicide, they die of drug overdoses, they die in car accidents... Veterans are smart. They can be creative in their choices of paths to self destruction. We cannot keep track of how many, but we know they have issues and we know they need help. The American Statesman did a great series on Texas veterans. You can look at their extensive series here.

Veterans coming home need mental health support that reaches out to where they are, and offers them a lifeline- a return path to making the adjustments necessary to get back on keel- get into a frame of mind where they can not only survive, but thrive. We, as a nation, owe them this effort. They did their duty. We sent them as a nation. We elected the president and the politicians that carried on two wars over the last decades.

It takes more than veterans watching out for each other- more than veteran's families watching out for each other. It take you and me. We have to hold politicians responsible. Image swiped from e-hydrate a sponsor of IAVA.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act bipartisan bill passed the house last week. Yesterday, senators were asked to pass the bill unanimously. The senate was out of time for the session and so a call was made for a bipartisan unanimous vote.

Senator Coburn of OKlahoma single handedly put a hold on the legislation. Mr. Coburn said he knew the funding was not needed, money was already funded, and the new appropriation was a waste.

Mr. Coburn is wrong. Mr. Coburn is being myopic. He fixates on what are his peeves and misses the big picture. We are losing 22 to 23 veterans a day from suicide. These numbers do not even count those veterans who end their lives with booze, with drug overdoses, or have a wreck, or by some other violent means. There is no accounting of the problems created with family and children caught up in such stressful situations. We do not need a bean counter counting money when what really counts- the lives of veterans, the needs of their families are pushed aside by penny pinching.

Here is a very simple concept. If we can run up deficits to fund over a trillion dollars for wars, we can fund the few billion needed to support the men and women we put in harm's way. 

Coburn is a detail man, watches the pennies very closely. He has been studying the issue of social security disability claims for several years. He was on 60 minutes in 2013 claiming of fraud in the system that was wasting money and letting sharpy lawyers push through hinky claims for people who were not really injured. Others have clearly stated that Mr. Coburn's attitudes colored his conclusions about the social security disability issues. Here is another case where Mr. Coburn fixates on the facts he wants and makes judgements that can be harmful to people in need.

Is there fraud in the social security disability program? Yes, about 1% of claims. More infor later,  but we must have perspective. Are we going to help people overcome injury, help support families and children of injured parents with compassion or are we going to be distracted by fraud and starve people and drive them to desperation to make sure no money is being wasted?

The Wall Street Journal stated in April 2013 that the claim that federal disability benefits were to blame for people leaving the labor force was exaggerated and, in fact, were the least common reason individuals left the workforce. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly found that fraud accounts for approximately one percent of all disability payments. Fraud exists. You cannot harm the ninety-nine per cent while trying to ferret out the 1 per cent.

Back to the issue of veterans. Coburn obviously sees the potential for abuse of the new system rather than having an ability to focus on the needs of the veteran.

Coburn sees the critical issue as money being wasted.  We need a little more perspective of how we spend gov'ment money. We have plenty to go to war. At any time. We have the money to prepare for war in space, to track citizens phone calls and emails, to upgrade and enhance the nuclear bomb delivery systems, but when it comes to support for our veterans- parse out pennies and watch every one?

We should have no problem at all providing support for American vets. The veterans need us to watch out for them. Politicians have bat ears when it comes to the interests of wall street bankers, big ag or big pharma. All those campaign contributions win rabid attention to the critical needs of lobbyists even when those interests are not necessarily in the interest of Americans.

Veterans don't have millions of dollars to ply Congress for favors. We have their back. We are not doing a very good job paying attention to our role in waging war.

I will give the final word to the IAVA - the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
While we appreciate the many Senators who have stood up to support our bill and our nation's veterans, we join them in expressing our dismay that Senator Coburn would block this bill. We appreciate the the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for bringing the bill to the floor for a vote. IAVA also thanks the Senate sponsors of the bill, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), as well as all those who signed on to support the measure. A total of 21 co-sponsors -- 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats -- supported the Clay Hunt SAV Act.

Let's make sure Congress knows that this fight is not over because the suicide crisis is not over. We will be back with reinforcements when the next Congress arrives. In the meantime, please click here [ed. their link was broken- too bad- here is a link to their FB page]  to send a message to Senator Coburn.


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