Taking Care of Veterans

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As I listened to President Bush’s new plan to deploy additional troops to Iraq, concerns and questions plagued my mind.
by Donna Teresa

I heard nothing in this new strategy about veteran benefits and health care for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Is the Veterans Administration across the country prepared to handle the hundreds of thousands of veterans when they eventually come home? Are they prepared to handle the potential tidal wave of PTSD mental illnesses?

In addition, the VA system must continue to provide health care and other services to disabled and seriously wounded veterans already home and in need of continuous treatment. This does not take into account the services needed for older veterans from previous wars? As dollars are needed to pay for this ongoing war, will veteran benefits be immune from future budget cuts from this Congress?

In speaking with local veterans in my community, I hear the same concerns time and again. Do they not deserve to utilize local medical or emergency services when they get sick, especially if they live far away from the nearest VA clinic?

Unless the need is service-related, they cannot go to the nearest emergency room. Hospitals are also over-loaded with patients insured and uninsured. Veterans must travel sometimes 100 to 200 miles to the nearest VA hospital by van for medical attention…

     

Ask yourself this question: if you were very ill, would you like to climb aboard a veterans transportation van, take a long ride, wait for your appointment, go to your appointment, and wait all day at the hospital for your van mates to finish their appointments, and take another long ride home? I think not.

But, many do it because they financially have no other choice or transportation. While ideas of universal health care are being debated, our veterans deserve to be included in the recipient list. They deserve a choice of health care. Have they not earned it?

Joshua Amaya, son of Raul Thomas Amaya, a Navy Vietnam veteran, who served in the reserves in 1967-1968 and active duty in 1969-1970, who recently died, experienced some of the consequences of this war.

Josh and his family were having trouble getting confirmation that a color guard and American flag would be available to honor his father at this funeral. He was told that during wartime, this service cannot be promised due to unavailability of personnel due to deployment in war and extremely full schedules covering other military funerals.

Amaya said the reasons were not acceptable. “(A)t first I understood, and then I thought about it,” he said. “Why was my dad’s service or anyone else’s service less deserving of a military memorial service and a flag? This president asks for billions of dollars to continue this war, but… I couldn’t get my dad an American flag for his funeral. He enlisted to defend our country just as those serving now are doing.

“My dad was there for his country, was it too much to ask that they be there for him? Will the support of our uniformed men and women stop when the war ends? These are the last acts of thanks to our veterans of all wars. Our country claims to care, but actions sometimes speaks louder than words.”

The local American Legion came to Josh’s rescue and his dad received the military funeral he deserved.

Military families need to be educated and re-educated about services such as military funerals. As the years go on, many families are left not knowing how to plan for such an important day. All funeral homes have the procedures for contacting the military for an honor guard and flag request.

2007 will bring many changes to our country and especially to our newest veterans. They deserve to come home with the knowledge that America has not forgotten about their service, even after a war is over.

Our veterans are a humble group of individuals who give so much and ask for so little. A war is a package deal. A country that involves itself in war must take care of those who fight them, before, during and after. Let us leave no veteran behind.


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