Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Plea To and For the Veterans Administration

As the fighting continues in Iraq and Afghanistan more and more of our military members are becoming "Wounded Warriors". Who will help them?

These brave and dedicated men and women, some of who endured two, three and even more tours in places of danger. Placing the lives on the line everyday, serving their country and defending the freedom; and hopefully the democracry of these nations, wanting only to stabilize their governments.

Now the injured, who by far outnumber the casualties of any other war; due to the wonderful and advancedcare they are given in the field, are arriving home to less than perfect conditions. They are returning missing limbs, with traumatic brain injury, suffering PTSD and a whole host of problems. The VA is unable to keepup and things just seem to be getting worse.

They face long and difficult recovery times. They are made to stand in long lines and wait for hours fortreatment. Their families suffer along with them, many family members give up their jobs to be closeto their loved ones. The pain and suffering does not end quickly or easily, it can drag on for years.

As these men and women are released and sent home it becomes even worse. They may have to travel very long distances to find a VA treatment center. And the wait and filling out forms continues and grows as time passes. This leads to even more mental problems as the depression deepens, and the feeling of being inadequate and hopless or worthless becomes a bigger burden.

Many become homeless, unable to work, they can not make the mortgage payments. Their debt increases as they max out their credit cards just trying to survive. Some turn to drugs or alcohol to ease the strain, whichof course does not help; but just make matters worse. Families sometimes fall apart due to the stress, thenever ending problems become just too much. This can lead to seperation or divorce, which brings on deeper depression.

The number of veterans taking their own lives is increasing, unable to endure any more pain, one more "come back in a month". Or some being told that their mental problems are not service connected, they had problems when they enlisted, and thus are not eligible for veterans benefits. They feel there is nothing left, no where to turn for help. No one to guide them, hold their hand and let them cry. Why should I go on fighting this?

Each and everyone of us who served in the military were given glowing promises of health care, education assistance, low interest rate home loans and other means of help when we left the service. We stood up for our country. Now it is time for our country to stand up for the veterans!

As a Cold War Veteran, because I did not face combat or serve in a "declared" war, I am told I am not a "real veteran". My service time means nothing, it does not count. So I am suffering with depression, and PTSD, but can not get the proper help. Ten years of being a Radioman, most of it spent with earphones on my head listening to the static and dit-dah-dit has left me with ringing in my ears, and hearing loss. I just go on with life and try to enjoy it as much as possible. With the help of my loving wife and our little "family" of four dogs and five cats I manage to make it. I have a good life, with good days and bad days, just like everyone else.

We all know the VA is understaffed and under funded, and and overworked. The VA is trying hard to catch up with the large influx of people needing care. There are many doctors and nurses that are doing their best, with what they have. Those that care and try to make a difference deserve the praise and thanks of our nation. But, there are too few of them to handle the needs of our service personnel or veterans.

So my plea is, that with the new administration soon to take charge of Veterans Affairs that immediate steps be taken to ensure our warriors are given the best care available. Anything less than that would be unacceptableand would just continue the injustice.

Of course we realize that Congress must increase funding for the Va,and that we are in deep financial trouble, but are these men and women not more deserving than Wall Street or the Auto Industry?

Is it right, is it fair to turn our backs on our military and veterans; to treat them as second or third classcitizens? No, of course not. Why should they be pushed to the end of a very long line? Take a few of thoseBillions of dollars we are throwing at the banking and auto industries and use it for health care for these deserving heroes.

The VA should also rescind the section eight class and bring all veterans back into the fold and allow every veteran the right to receive the care they were told they could and would receive. Yes, it will cost more money and add to the already overflowing VA hospitals and clinics; but do they not deserve at least this?

We as a nation should be ashamed and outraged that this problem has existed for such a long time, that nothing has been done to correct this ongoing mistreatment and mismanagement. We must not, we can not allow any further delay.

How can we expect to keep our troops at fightingstrength, ask young men and women to volunteer to place their lives in jepordy if our country will not keep our promisses? If we
do not give them proper and functioning equipment.

Perhaps I should have entitled this as a Plea to Congress. I ask and urge every person in America to contact all their elected officials. Tell them that VA must be funded fully, and immediately, we can no longer allow this travesty to continue. Let the 111th Congress be the turning point, the one to say enough is enough; we will honor our commitment. There will be no more delays, no more wait till next year. We will do the right thing.

Oh yes, one other thing; demand an immediate accounting for all POW/MIA's, bring them home. They are not forgotten. Tell your state officials to follow the example of Pennsylvania, establish centers for collection of mtDNA. This Pennsylvania Project, A Model For The Nation begun by Robin Piacine, President of The Coalition Of Families Of Korean And Cold War POW/MIA's is a tremendous undertaking. You can read more about this on their webiste http://www.coalitionoffamilies.org/new/default.aspThis is a project that every state should institute without further delay.

Jerald TerwilligerNational Vice ChairmanAmerican Cold War Veteranswww.americancoldwarvets.org"We Remember"