“One out of every ten veterans alive today was seriously injured at some point while serving in the military, and three-quarters of those injuries occurred in combat,” according to a 2011 Pew Research survey of veterans. “For many of these 2.2 million wounded warriors, the physical and emotional consequences of their wounds have endured long after they left the military.”
There are three arguments toward a resolution to this situation: stop creating new veterans, assimilate the nine out of ten who left the service without serious injury, and, as a society, provide medical and psychiatric care to combat veterans. Easy to say, but harder to do.
How would one stop creating new veterans? Avoid senseless wars.
“About a third (33 percent) of all injured veterans served during the Vietnam era (1964-1973),” according to the Pew study. “In comparison, 18 percent have served in the post-9/11 era, about the same as the share of surviving veterans of World War II and Korean War. About a quarter (26 percent) served between 1974 and Sept. 11, 2001, a period that includes the 1990-1991 Gulf War.” What if there would have been no Vietnam, second Iraq war or Afghanistan? One outcome would have been fewer seriously injured veterans.
Harvard University posted the top ten reasons not to invade Iraq from human rights organization The Global Exchange. The list is familiar: lack of truthful justification for the war, the deaths of tens of thousands of people, the absence of a clear victory, diversion of resources from domestic priorities, and the idea the U.S. should not engage in war for oil. The U.S. engaged in this war and is unwilling to pay the consequences in the form of proper treatment for veterans with combat injuries.
Before writing about the Veterans Administration (VA), it is important to emphasize that nine out of ten returning veterans had no combat related injury, according to Pew. The author falls into this category, and like most of my friends who served, I value my military experiences and was ready to get on with life as soon as I turned my service revolver in to the arms room.
My experience in the post-Vietnam era military was a combination of dealing with crime in our mechanized infantry unit: a prostitution ring, drug dealing, money laundering, black marketing and the like, and working on projects that affected national policy as the military geared up for a war for oil in the Middle East. Military leaders, including folks I know, had a lot to do with cleaning up the problems with the troops, even if we seemed predestined for war in the Middle East. The Norman Schwartzkopf-led first Gulf War military was the external manifestation of these changes from the Vietnam era.
As a member of the 90 percent who were unscathed by military service, I don’t think much about my veteran status. Many of us don’t wear our service on our sleeve, and expect to live in society without calling constant attention to how we spent that part of our lives. We just want to go on living.
The VA has been a political whipping post for our country’s failures in providing treatment to combat veterans.
“Part of that bureaucracy is failing our veterans, and the stories we’ve heard about the failures of the VA are heartbreaking,” said Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Joni Ernst on July 12. “As an active member of the Iowa National Guard and the wife of a retired U.S. Army ranger, I believe this isn’t a partisan issue. It’s an American problem that must be solved.” Everyone who believes the problems at the VA aren’t partisan please stand on your head. What is the Ernst solution? She didn’t say.
The National Journal provided some detailed information on the challenges in the VA health care system in a three-part article here. Read it if you are so inclined, but the VA is not the problem with regard to treatment of combat-injured veterans.
The country’s failure to join the modern world by instituting a national health care system is a core part of the problem with the VA. There is a need for specialized treatment centers for combat-related injuries, but why should veterans have to travel to the VA for common medical problems? They shouldn’t.
The country’s recent bite of the health care apple (Obamacare) fell far short of what’s needed, which is a national, single payer health care system that includes everyone. Nonetheless, as BFIA reported, the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act appears to be working. Obamacare isn’t politicized? Please.
So as people wave the flag, constantly recognizing our veterans, consider this: if we didn’t engage in senseless war, much of the problem with injured combat veterans wouldn’t exist, and our national debt would be less than it is. As John Lennon suggested before his untimely death to gun violence, we should “give peace a chance.”