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[casi] Support the Warrior: Give Them Their Benefits!

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Published on Friday, March 28, 2003 by

Support the Warrior Not the War: Give Them Their Benefits!

by Ashley L Decker

The recent rally cry "Support Our Troops" seems to me little more than a
perverted, propaganda ploy to "Support the War." But we can support our
troops, without supporting the war, by rectifying some of the following

The House of Representatives have recently voted on the 2004 budget which
will cut funding for veteran's health care and benefit programs by nearly $25
billion over the next ten years. It narrowly passed by a vote of 215 to 212,
and came just a day after Congress passed a resolution to "Support Our
Troops." How exactly does this vote support our troops? Does leaving our
current and future veterans veterans without access to health care and
compensation qualify as supporting them?

The Veteran's Administration, plagued by recent budget cuts, has had to
resort to charging new veterans entering into its system a yearly fee of $250
in order for them to receive treatment. It is a sad irony that the very
people being sent to fight the war are going to have to pay to treat the
effects of it.

According to the Veteran's Administration, 28 million veterans are currently
using VA benefits. Another 70 million Americans are potential candidates for
such programs. This amounts to a quarter of the country's population.
Veterans and their families will sadly begin finding that they have no place
to turn for their medical treatment as V.A. hospitals across the country face
closing their doors. With the budget shrinking, staff will be let go. This
could mean the loss of over 19,000 nurses. Without these nurses, this leads
to the loss of over 6.6 million outpatient visits. Approximately one out of
every two veterans could lose their only source of medical care. That is, if
they even realize help is available to them. The Bush Administration recently
ordered V.A. medical centers to stop publicizing available benefits to
veterans seeking assistance. This follows discontinued enrollments of some
eligible veterans for healthcare benefits as of January, 2003.

Bush Administration funding cuts will also prevent veterans from receiving
their disability pensions. My father was granted 100% disability six years
ago for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with the Vietnam War. He
deserves every cent of it. As do all soldiers who are willing to go to war.
Under the Bush administration, being granted the ability to receive war
related compensation has become a rare privilege, not a right as it should
be. Nearly a third of Gulf War veterans, about 209,000 veterans, have
submitted claims to to the VA for disability. The backlog of unprocessed
claims has reached the astronomical count of 489,297, a number which is
unfortunately increasing all of time. There are also currently 500,000
Compensation and Pension cases still pending.

Making matters worse, forty percent of Vietnam Veterans are homeless. They
went from the jungles of the war to the jungles of the street. Before
President Bush decided to declare war, maybe he ought to have considered
correcting this situation first. How many current veterans will return home,
only to find themselves in the same situation?

I have seen the effects of war written upon the face of a man who grew old at
17. I have seen it in the way he awakes from yet another night terror. I have
seen it in the countless pills he has to take. They have only succeeded in
erasing his memory, but the images of the war he fought are so graphic that
they will never be able to stop playing themselves upon his mind.

Even I, his daughter, have not escaped unscathed. Exposure to the chemical
Agent Orange has left me with several genetic problems, including growth
problems and digestive ones. I fear that these current soldiers will be
exposed to toxins that will not only affect them, but their future offspring
as well.

And today we are told that we must "Support Our Troops." "Wear a yellow
ribbon, wave your flag, support the Bush Administration's War on Terror and
War on Iraq." Questioning the war is equated with deserting our troops or
treason. And yet how are the warmongers supporting our troops? By eliminating
their healthcare and slashing their pensions. Let us support the warrior
without supporting the war.

Ashley L Decker is a student at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

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