Blowing off a little steam….

12247844751816776100wsnaccad_feather-pen.svg.medAs a self-proclaimed blogger, I blog for a variety of reasons.  One reason is that I write far better than I speak. I feel that I can more fully express myself using the written word than in conversation.  I also love to use a slightly different vocabulary when I write, versus my spoken words. I am often called a “Grammar-Nazi” because poor grammar and punctuation make me crazy.  I can no longer enjoy a newspaper because their copy-editors obviously do not consult with their type-setters before allowing final print.  I read lots of blogs and I have such a variety of interests, I find that blogging is by far a more pleasurable experience, along with reading a good novel.

Another reason to blog is to share little tid-bits with others that I have garnered along the way.  There is an expression that really describes me, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”  That saying describes my intellectual pursuits to a “t”!   I have little bits of information and knowledge about a variety of issues and I love sharing them with people. It is not intellectual snobbery in any way, because I am so fully aware of my lack of education and formation in so many areas.  When you cannot help your kids with their schoolwork, you realize that the world is passing you by.  I read a wonderful blog post today about the horrors of technology and the havoc it is having on organized religion.  And I couldn’t help but add my two-cents’ worth about the lack of quiet, silence, and the stillness one can enjoy in the company of good friends, without electronic interference.  Such a tragedy.  And still it is a tool, as witnessed by the fact that I am blogging!! Ha-Ha!

Another reason to blog, for me, is to allow me to blow off steam about certain issues that really fry me.  And people are free to read along with my rants, or they can opt to not read them.  It is one of the benefits of a blog versus a conversation.  You can choose to click off this post and ignore it, something we can’t do when enduring pithy or boring conversations!

Today, my rant is regarding the care our veterans receive from our government, and the audacity of this Administration and our Federal Government to think they can treat the entire country with centralized healthcare, when a veteran cannot even get an appointment with a primary care VA doctor.  Sometimes they wait, quite literally, years, for their first appointment.  YEARS.  We have Vietnam veterans who are finally getting healthcare. Hello?!?!  Is anyone listening??? Vietnam veterans!!!  Today was so infuriating, that I decided to do a little fact-checking myself.  When you Google veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, you get articles galore.  And I am talking “mainstream” media like CBS, NBC, ABC as well as FOX, and many, many other news outlets (both considered “left” or “right” in their reporting).  As I got more and more into it, I was amazed at all the articles and interviews, facts and figures that are out there.  Why we don’t hear about this more often is just beyond proper grammar!! (In other words, it made me want to use “bad” words!!). So let me hit you with some history and some facts that I was able to gather so very quickly and simply:

World Trade Center AttackedSince 9/11 happened, we have deployed 2,000,000+ soldiers (that’s million!!).  52.2% currently in uniform have served since 9/11.  Just .75% of the US Population is in uniform (paltry number in comparisons to other countries) which is less than 1% of the population – ONE PERCENT. Those 2+ million soldiers are keeping us safe in our beds at night and allowing us to have life as “normal,” which is something most vets never have!! 22,658,000 living veterans were in the USA as of 9/11/11.  1,981,000 living World War II veterans!  Of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 12.1% are unemployed.  That’s higher than the national average.  Young male vets (aged 25-34) have an unemployment rate of 21.9% (21.9%!!!!).  Since we officially went to war in 2003, 2.5 MILLION soldiers have been deployed. Of that number, 37,000 have deployed more than 5 times; 400,000 have deployed 3+ times.  That, to me, is wrong on so many, many fronts.  There are 1.6 MILLION veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and of that number 670,000 are classified as disabled.  100,000 still have their initial disability claims PENDING.  In regards to payments for veteran’s benefits, here are some figures that should stagger the mind:

The peak pay period (of Vet benefits) for WWI veterans was 1969 (yes, 1969!)!!!!

The peak pay period (of vet benefits) for WWII veterans was the 1980s!!! Yes, 1980s!!!!

dvasealAccording to recent VA statistics, there are currently 860,000 veterans going through disabled “processing.”  There are 270,000 PTSD veterans with benefits PENDING.  There have been 150,000 vets paid for PTSD suffering.  The costs of these payments, combined with all veteran disability payments so far, is well over the $1 TRILLION mark!  45% of Iraq and Afghanistan vets have applied for disability benefits, which is roughly double that of the First Gulf War.  The differences are in the ailments themselves.  In prior wars, up until the First Gulf War, we did not know much about PTSD or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).  The veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have, on average, 8 ailments to claim.  Vietnam veterans averaged 4, while WWII and Korean vets averaged just 2 ailments per claim.  More than 1600 vets (as of May 2013) had lost limbs, 177,000 have significant hearing loss, and 200 require face transplants.  And there is no estimate of those who suffer in silence, having seen horrific things and who do not seek assistance.

1 in 7 veterans were rated as 70% disabled in 2000; today it is more than 1 in 4.

Processing of disability claims average 200 days.  As of May 20, 2013 the VA had 838,821 claims waiting to be processed. 2/3 of them, or 559,186 were pending at 125+ days, with the average completion at 345 days. If you appeal a prior ruling, the process is even longer.  Nearly 200,000 vets have DIED while waiting for benefits to be processed.  “Some have waited 10+ YEARS for a VA decision,” says Paul Sullivan, the Public Affairs Director of Bergman and Moore, a law firm specializing in obtaining benefits for vets.  It is so bad, the VA has asked to partner with the DAV and American Legion to help vets file claims!

The research on these facts took me all of about 10 minutes.  The information here should cause us all to pause and truly think about what we are doing.  We have voted to have a national healthcare system to treat all Americans.  How can we expect treatment at the hands of a government that cannot even care for its injured veterans?  Someone I am close to walked in to the VA again today, seeking assistance.  He noticed that he was one of 2 or 3 under the age of 50 in the building.  The worker he spoke to was fervent in his desire to assist him, but told him there is not much he can do, other than request someone to call within the next 8-10 days, with a request to start the appointment process. He separated from the military 3 years ago and still has not been able to get an appointment with a primary care physician, to get referrals to all the specialists he is supposed to be seeing.  He was told to keep applying but to see his personal physician to receive treatment (at his own cost) until his case is processed.  He told him “maybe in the next 10 years” he’d get help.

To me, as he told me this, I was embarrassed at how my country was treating this disabled veteran; I was also so angry, I got a stomach ache.  And when I saw all the articles written and papers researched on this very subject, just in my 10-minutes of research online, I became incensed and livid.  How can we do this?  Do you thank a veteran who lets you know he/she served (sometimes they wear hats, have tattoos, or have stickers on their cars)?  I always thank a serviceman/woman for their service. How lame is that???? In light of what I now know, I am embarrassed that I do thank them; it seems so little compared to what they have done for me and what they still go through.  What kind of thank-you from our country takes YEARS to process??? I had no idea taking care of them AFTER they served was so abysmal.  We are failing our veterans.

I used to work for a county government a few years ago.  In the course of my job, I came into constant contact with the heads of varying county agencies.  One agency head whom I really took a liking to was the head of Veterans’ Affairs.  I loved his fervor and his dedication to our veterans.  He is a veteran, himself, and he knows the ins and outs of service and how treacherous returning to civilian life can be, especially for our veterans.  He told me quite a number a years ago, that we, as a country, were not ready for our veterans.  We did not have the processes in place; the buildings and facilities, and specialists in place; nor did we have financing.  He related how difficult it was to get funding for veterans. He foresaw the overwhelming task it would be to take care of all of our injured and disabled vets, as well as those who did not claim an injury, but just needed help getting back on their feet after serving in the military and serving during conflict.

TOMB-photo3The photo is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, and its perpetual guard.  We pay tribute to our dead, to those who have served our country and given their life’s blood keeping us a free nation.  I usually weep, just watching the Guard walk back and forth in all sorts of weather and conditions, honoring our fallen soldiers.  Our living veterans need our care and admiration as well.  I was honored this past Veteran’s Day to go to the local National Cemetery.  I cried as I saw how much their service takes from our veterans, and how it still takes from them.  Not being able to see a doctor, after 3 years of being separated, two tours in a war zone, and having been declared disabled, is a crime.  That’s more than 1,000 days after service without treatment.  And that is just one example out of 838,821 claims waiting to be processed.  Our system is broken; it is a travesty against the freedom these soldiers fought to protect.  We should be ashamed of ourselves as a nation.  How is it we can send money overseas, we can supply countries with money to go to war, and we spend money to care for victims of disasters all over the world, and we cannot take care of those we owe so much to, keeping us free, and politically healthy, as a nation? I hope you become just as angry and help change this.  It is a travesty our Founding Fathers would be ashamed of.

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