Monday, June 02, 2008

The Definition of a Commander-in-Chief...

George Bush said the new G.I. bill is too expensive. The money is clearly needed elsewhere, namely in places like Iraq to pay off contractors and maintain several huge military bases and the largest embassy in the world - in addition to paying for military operations. The $3 trillion spent so far on the war continues to bleed our economy at a time when oil cartels and corporations are taking the opportunity to rip off the entire world.

Yet recent reports from Afghanistan show that the troops still don’t have the protection of enough MRAP anti-roadside bomb vehicles, resulting in more deaths and injuries. G.I. & veteran suicide rates continue to climb. A VA hospital in Texas determined that they should reclassify returning troops with PTSD to some other lesser category, like ‘anxiety disorder’ – to save money.

Where is the Commander-in-Chief?

But is the future any better for troops and veterans with John McCain? Hardly. McCain recently said that if we give returning veterans an education, they will want to get out of the military too soon. He is probably the only person anywhere in the public arena or in the Pentagon that really believes this to be true – no one has come forward to support this cockeyed reasoning. In fact, the truth is he could expect much higher enlistment and re-enlistment rates with the incentive of a new G.I. bill. McCain avoided actually voting against the bill by pretending to be busy at a conveniently scheduled fund-raiser. This says something about McCain’s judgment and how he will treat veterans – ironically, as a war hero.

McCain’s attitude is like that of lawyers who pass the bar exam, and then write the new one more difficult so that a smaller percentage of law students pass after them. It's as if he were saying, 'I sacrificed for this country – you are going to have to suck it up and sacrifice a lot more before I consider giving you any more benefits.' And for someone who spent a half dozen years as a prisoner of war, why have we heard virtually nothing out of him about really improving the disgraceful status of veterans health care, housing, homelessness, jobs – and yes education?

Look at the history yourself. Without the post-WW2 G.I. bill, we would not have led the world economically, or otherwise for the three generations that followed. The ‘greatest generation’ came back and built a powerhouse, because we invested significantly in what economists call human capital – a generation that withstood the Cold War and emerged as the only remaining superpower.

Yet neither George Bush nor John McCain has any apparent understanding of these facts.

Real commanders do not abandon their troops in the field – or when they return from the field…period.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How McCain Will Treat You, Veterans. Not Exactly Subtle...

The Senate yesterday approved $165 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into the next presidency, but in a break with President Bush and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, it also approved billions of dollars in domestic spending that includes a generous expansion of veterans' education benefits…In so doing, McCain went against virtually every veterans organization, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion to the more partisan, which has aired blistering advertisements against him...

"I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country," Obama said. "But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this G.I. Bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans." McCain blasted back, questioning Obama's knowledge of veterans issues and his commitment to national security… "I take a backseat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans. And I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did," he said in a lengthy statement.

Actions speak louder than words Mr. McCain. Trotting out your self-proclaimed care for veterans, based on your military experience, doesn't wash - especially when you skip the vote for the G.I. Bill (which you were going to vote against anyway) - so that you could attend a fund-raiser for yourself. So, you will be as out of touch with the country as your predecessor. And despite your protestations, you don't give a damn about your fellow veterans, Mr. McCain. If they didn't know it before, they do now.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Monday, May 19, 2008

"VA Staffer Discourages PTSD Diagnoses"

It's easy to take pot shots at a huge bureaucracy like the VA, and much of their failings have to do with lack of outside support, like inadequate funding. But we can't let laziness, or the sole priority to cut costs, result in disgraceful and and even disgusting purposeful actions on the part of VA decision makers, preventing deserving veterans from getting the care they need...

From Veterans for Common Sense...

Temple, Texas, May 15, 2008 (CBS) - A Department of Veterans Affairs team leader in Texas suggested mental health professionals should diagnose patients with "adjustment disorder" rather than post traumatic stress disorder in order to save time and money treating veterans, according to an internal VA e-mail.

VA Secretary James Peake immediately called the e-mail "inappropriate" and a violation of VA policy. On March 20, Norma J. Perez, a PTSD program coordinator and psychologist at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Center in Temple, Texas sent an e-mail with the subject line "Suggestion" to several staffers including psychologists, social workers, and a psychiatrist. In the e-mail, Perez wrote "given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out." She then went on to say "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder. . ."

Read the scandalous VA internal e-mail, obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and

"This means the veterans will not get disability benefits and health care for PTSD," Paul Sullivan, the executive director of the advocate group Veterans for Common Sense, told CBS News.

Andrew Pogany, an investigator with the National Veterans Legal Services Program, said he thinks "purposely misdiagnosing someone is a serious ethical issue that [could] fall under malpractice."

"VA staff across the country are working their hearts out to get our veterans the care they need and deserve," said U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash), a key member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, "But e-mails like these make their jobs far more difficult."

In her e-mail, Perez also told staffers that "we really don’t . . . have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD."

Sullivan, whose group has a pending lawsuit against the VA to force the agency to improve the treatment of veterans, said this "shows our suit has merit and that the VA lacks the capacity to provide proper care."

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

This Time, Let’s Do It Right For Veterans

This isn’t the first time we have gone to war and then have quickly forgotten our troops when they returned. I saw it for the first time 30 years ago as Vietnam ended. In one respect it was worse then, because many citizens also blamed the troops for the failures in South East Asia.

Our sons and daughters and friends continue to die and be wounded, both physically and mentally in Iraq and Afghanistan. And yet… and yet… once again, our returning veterans, now coming back in our communities, are quickly dropping under the radar – their basic needs for health care, education, jobs, and housing are now being crowded out once again by other priorities.

Now obviously, problems like the economy hit all of us, including veterans. Veterans don’t expect the public to put veterans in front of all these other issues, but they do hope for awareness and advocacy for their needs, given the special trust put in them for what they do for their country and their state.

National Guard, Reserves, and Active Duty troops are being stressed to the limit. They are pulling their fair share and more in deployments, with perhaps the biggest deployments yet to come. Fully 1/3rd of returning war vets have mental disorders, including Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the percentage with lifetime disabilities is higher than in any previous war – because, thankfully, we are so much better at saving lives. Yet the cost for taking care of them will be with us for 50 years or more with many of them.

Many veterans that I talk to also believe this country is going the wrong way, and they also want this war to end quickly and responsibly.

· They want wisdom in the use of our best-in-the-world military, not arrogance.

· They want our sons and daughters in the military to be taken care of responsibly and responsively.

· They want our National Guard available for the state emergencies that will inevitably come.

· They want pre-emptive warfare considered as a last resort option (as it was during the Cold War), not a first resort.

· They want our country to restore its commitment to the Geneva Conventions and Habeas Corpus.

How about you? If you want the same things, don’t sit back cynically and say ‘they have forgotten us vets before, they will do it again.’ Get involved in the election. Email and phone your representatives. Make your voice known, and this time, let’s do it right for veterans.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Friday, August 24, 2007

White House Catches Up With the Vietnam Analogy - Well Sort of...

Well, you have to give points for creativity. After ignoring the lessons of Vietnam for years, for fear they might actually apply to Iraq, perhaps Carl Rove, in absentia, may have given the President a way to use Vietnam - an interpretation with which no one has yet voiced agreement, much less understands.

So, because, this blog has previously posted the following Vietnam-Iraq analogy several times (which appeared all over the Internet beginning in mid-2003) , it's worth repeating it again, one more time, in the failing hope that anybody inside the Beltway would have the light come on...

The Vietnam II Preflight Check:

1. Cabal of oldsters who won't listen to outside advice? Check.

2. No understanding of ethnicity's of the many locals? Check.

3. National boundaries drawn in Europe, not by the locals? Check.

4. Unshakable faith in our superior technology? Check.

5. France secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.

6. Russia secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.

7. China secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.

8. Enemy supply lines unknown? Check.

9. Sec of Def pushing a conflict the Joint Chiefs never wanted? Check.

10. Fear we'll look bad if we back down now? Check.

11. Corporate Texan in the White House? Check.

12. Land war in Asia? Check.

13. Right-wing unhappy with outcome of previous war? Check.

14. Enemy easily moves in/out of neighboring countries? Check.

15. Soldiers about to be exposed to our own chemicals? Check.

16. Daily guerrilla attacks that cannot be stopped? Check.

17. Anti-Americanism up sharply in Europe? Check.

18. B-52 bombers? Check.

19. Helicopters that clog up on the local dust? Check.

20. Infighting among the branches of the military? Check.

21. Locals that cheer us by day, hate us by night? Check.

22. Local experts ignored? Check.

23. Local politicians ignored? Check.

24. Local conflicts since before the USA has been a country? Check.

25. Much confusion over who and where the enemy is? Check.

26. Against advice, Prez won't use taxes to pay for war? Check.

27. Blue water navy ships operating in brown water? Check.

28. Use of nukes hinted at if things don't go our way? Check.

29. War unpopular at home? Check.

30. No plan in place to end involvement? Check.

Vietnam II, you


Note that almost all 30 of these were right on target four years later.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Veterans for Common Sense

Another excellent source of advocacy for veterans is Veterans for Common Sense (VCS). Check it out to see what they are doing and to get on their email list. For example:
On Monday, July 23, 2007, VCS filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs for the shameful delays our veterans face when trying to see a VA doctor or when seeking VA disability benefits. VCS reluctantly filed suit to force VA leaders to fix their problems now so more of our veterans don't fall through the cracks.

On Wednesday, VCS offered practical solutions to Congress as part of our testimony about how the military and VA are improperly discharging thousands of veterans with a personality disorder diagnosis instead of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

The same day, VA informed Congress that more than 250,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were already treated at VA hospitals, a shocking milestone the press failed to report to the public.
Based on Harvard University Linda Bilmes report on the human and financial cost of the wars, VA can reasonably expect another 500,000 war veteran patients.

Also on Wednesday, S 1606 passed the full Senate. The Wounded Warrior bill, supported by VCS, offers service members and veterans some real hope of improving the broken transition from soldier to veteran. VCS urges you to call your local Representative and ask that S 1606 be approved by the House of Representatives before they go on vacation at the end of the week.

The next day, Dan Fahey, a member of our VCS board of directors, provided Congressional testimony about depleted uranium research for Gulf War veterans. Dan remains one of the most respected and articulate pro-veteran advocates on the issue of DU.

Finally, on Friday, newspapers reported that VA will consider a recommendation by Professor Bilmes and VCS that veterans' disability claims be approved for a nominal amount for a short period of time, while the claim us under review, so that veterans don't fall through the cracks.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What 'Support the Troops' Really Means...
The Bush administration said recently that it "strongly opposes" key military pay and benefit gains tossed into their fiscal 2008 defense bill. The initiatives the administration "strongly oppose" include: (1) a military pay raise for next January of 3.5 percent; (2) lowering the age to 60 to start the reserve retirement annuities for reserve component members by the length of their future mobilizations; and (3) expanding eligibility for Combat-Related Special Compensation to servicemembers forced by combat disabilities to retire short of 20 years.
Our sons and daughters continue to be sent off to confront the quagmire in Iraq. Mr. Bush & Co. not only do not care about veterans (see post below), but they also have a special deal for active duty troops - refusing to go along with a 3.5% pay raise for them. And the irony is that this money would be taken from them while they continue to do their professional best to make the best of a bad situation. That same money would then be available to add to the $1/2 trillion already thrown at Iraq.

So do you really still buy the 'Support the Troops' b.s. coming from the administration, the Repugs, and yes the Democrats, who so far have only made noise?

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Who Will G.I.'s vote for in 2008?

(Yes, I know it's been awhile since I last posted - I plan to do so now again maybe once a week leading up to the elections)

On a recent national radio show, the above question was asked. I just couldn't help myself, so I sent in the following response:

As a 27-year veteran, your discussion about how candidates can get the votes of military people (and veterans) is full of irony. What should candidates think about, in my opinion?

  1. First, we send our sons and daughters off to war, and then tie them up in a bureaucratic morass when they seek deserved health care while still on active duty and as veterans. We need the commitment to complete, responsive, and free health care to veterans – no questions asked, no delays in treatment, no disgraceful medical facilities, period. It is time for political leaders to step up to their responsibilities, regardless of their political persuasion. And, it’s time for our civilian leadership in the DoD and VA to remove all obstacles involved.
  2. Our veterans crowd the ranks of the homeless and street people from the Vietnam war onwards. Homelessness and poverty are a national shame. How much more so for those who have fought and served for this country?
  3. For all of my time on active duty, I was required to carry a Geneva Convention Card and I was required to understand and get updated training on the international rules of warfare and prisoner treatment. If we do not accept these agreed upon rules, we become no better than those whom we fight against. Restore the validity of the Geneva conventions, not just because it is morally right to do so, but because it protects OUR service men and women as well.
  4. We must always be prepared to defend our right to exist as a country and to maintain our special place in world affairs as a democratic nation. As we have done for most of our history (especially during the Cold War), we must use warfare as an absolute last resort when all other possibilities have been exhausted, not as a pre-emptive method of carrying out political strategies.
  5. Finally, I will support the candidate who best can find an honorable way to remove our troops from Iraq & Afghanistan as soon as possible. We are now in an almost impossible situation no matter which way we turn. So, many veterans, like myself will be asking ‘Who put us in this kind of position, and who has the best approach to ending our presence in both countries?”, and we will vote accordingly.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, February 22, 2007

“If You Don’t Support the War, You Play Into the Hands of the Enemy, and you Help Destroy the Morale of the Troops…”

OK, regarding the ’morale of the troops’, let’s put the B.S. above to rest:

First, virtually no member of the administration or in Congress who makes this kind of statement ever served in the Armed Forces, therefore they don’t understand troop morale or anything about its dynamics.

Second, how many senior military officers in the news have made this kind of statement? Not very many – if any.

So, the administration and its remaining backers in Congress are using the troops and their ‘morale’ as pawns in making you feel guilty about your increasing opposition to the war in Iraq – 2/3rds of you in this country.

It’s a shameless tactic, it’s disgusting, it’s despicable – and most of all, it’s wrong.


- No soldier, airman, sailor, or marine worth his or her salt believes their morale is tied to what any politician or private citizen says or does.

- Many may not agree personally with what is going on, but the overwhelming majority will do their job anyway to the best of their ability. Why? They are professionals who will do their best to achieve the objectives they are given – that’s what they swore an oath to do - and they will do their best to protect each other so that they can come home safely, at some point.

One blogger puts it this way about the morale of soldiers:

...To the extent that they are concerned with political debates in Washington, it is mostly about the small picture: ensuring they get the tools and equipment they need to survive and get the job done. While they may be interested in grand strategy, it seldom motivates them to risk life and limb. They may agree or disagree with establishing a foothold for democracy in the Middle East but they fight for their comrades-in-arms, out of genuine concern for locale villagers whose situations they empathize with, and for hundreds of other reasons unique to each soldier.

That said, there are some things that definitely could and do impact troop morale, for example: failure of leadership (e.g. Abu Ghraib), improper and inadequate equipment to do the job and protect troops (e.g. body armor & helmets, HUMVEE armor), and failure to provide adequate and responsive health care and facilities (e.g. Walter Reed hospital recovery) to returning physically and mentally wounded veterans.

Bottom line: it’s way past time to put up or shut up with ‘supporting the troops’ - and really support them - and most importantly to stop putting the troops in the middle by mouthing a bunch of platitudes about troop morale and using them to threaten political opponents while dumping undeserved guilt on our citizens.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The War Gets Closer...A Time-Out

An email note from a friend:

"On Sunday a CH-47 Helicopter crashed in Afghanistan after the engine failed. On board was my closest and best friend, a U.S. Army Ranger. In the crash, eight soldiers died, but he survived. However, he is in serious condition with head trauma. He is in a trauma induced coma and has some back fractures. The doctors in Germany where they flew him had to remove some of his skull to stop the hemorrhaging, with the hopes that there will be no or less brain damage. I was with his family yesterday and talked to his wife; they are being flown out to Bethesda Naval hospital which has a head trauma unit today and will meet him there when he is transported.

I ask that prayers be made on his behalf that he would recover and that the family would endure."

...and I would add: also keep the families and friends of those who lost loved ones in your prayers as well...

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link