The WaPo is reporting this morning that more than one in three American servicepeople report suffering from mental distress after returning from Iraq.
It's unfortunate that the Bush Administration and the VA have consistently refused to raise funding for treatment of PTSD and other mental issues to correspond with the increase in our veterans requesting treatment over the last few years. In fact, it gets worse:
The Administration targeted many severely-disabled veterans suffering with mental health problems by seeking review of their benefits, subjecting them to the trauma of re-documenting their claims even though the errors that prompted the review were the result of administrative mistakes and not fraud, as the Administration implied. The Administration has also halted a congressionally mandated study to examine the long-term health effects of PTSD on Vietnam veterans.Read more here -- and it's not just mental health issues that are under-funded.
This is shameful, and something that your representatives in Congress ought to hear about. And something that would make a great issue for a letter to the editor in your local newspaper or a call to a local talk radio show. Our soldiers risk their lives day in and day out -- they deserve a helluva lot better from this Administration than a deliberately underfunded system of support year after year.
We knew going into Afghanistan and Iraq that the number of injured veterans was likely to rise -- as it always does when you engage in an armed conflict. That this Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress failed to plan for this increase -- by budgeting and staffing adequately for it up front -- is dishonest and wrong. And it dishonors the veterans who put their lives and their limbs on the line for all of us. Shame on Congress and the President for failing our veterans at a time when they need us most. For shame.
It's bad enough that this Administration is asking soldiers to re-pay them for body armor pulled off their bleeding bodies because the proper paperwork wasn't done in the middle of a combat arena, or that foreign troops are getting priority over our own national guard troops in receiving upgraded body armor from the DoD -- but this VA underfunding issue is really the last straw for me.
Our veterans deserve better. George Bush and his Administration have an obligation to the men and women they send in harms way to provide adequate medical care for these soldiers when they return from the field of combat. We owe them that much. And I expect the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress to step up to the plate and honor these veterans by doing the right thing.
UPDATE: SteveO, posting at Bob Geiger's blog, provides a link for you to Hold a Bake Sale to help a soldier get proper body armor.
UPDATE #2: Well, this is appalling (via Wonkette). Thanks to reader radish for bringing it to my attention. According to Wonkette, the US Marine Corps has decided our soldiers are fighting for Communist China or Stalinist Russia or something -- because they are heavily censoring what our soldiers can or can't read -- including limiting access to any news organizations or blogs who would *gasp* dare criticize the Administration. E-mail access has also been blocked (wouldn't want our soldiers learning anything contrary to what our government wants them to know, now would we?) You know, in the not so distant past, this nation valued the First Amendment and freedom of speech and liberty. It all seems so quaint now, doesn't it? (And who the hell decided that soldiers are gonna stay cheery on the battlefield without access to internet porn? Sheesh.)