Today is Veterans Day, a day on the calendar reserved for honoring those who took the oath and donned the uniform to defend this nation.
It marks the 97th anniversary of the end of World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent across Europe and brought an end to The Great War.
Then, it came to picking up the pieces. It would take us 12 years to create the Department of Veterans Affairs. Over those 12 years, our veterans suffered tremendously. Injustice was so great, with veterans receiving little to no pay and subpar healthcare, that there was actually a march on Washington.
It got to be so bad that in 1932, Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton were actually called in to disperse the demonstrators with tanks and armored columns. Tanks were actually rolling through the streets of Washington D.C., all because the government was more interested in pushing the veterans aside than actually dealing with their demands.
Fast-forward 85 years. Today, not much is better. An estimated 300,000 veterans have died while waiting for medical care at the VA. Every day, 22 veterans take their lives out of despair and depression.
And again. Congress is more interested in pretending to do something about it. In fact, the plight of our veterans is at the bottom of the to-do list.
All of the presidential candidates are talking about veterans care today. It makes sense, since it is Veterans Day. Our vets deserve more than just attention on one day out of the year.
Yesterday, the GOP announced a major advancement in VA care. Do you know what it was? They passed an amendment to a bill that will allow veterans to receive prescriptions for medical marijuana.
Now, I am sure that this will help a lot of veterans. Regardless of your opinion on marijuana legalization, there is no doubt that this drug has proven to be lifesaving for certain patients.
But this is literally a drop in the bucket. No, scratch that. This is a drop in the ocean.
We still have veterans who are dying while waiting to see a doctor. I’m not talking about hour long waits… I am talking about months, or even years, in between doctors’ visits.
This is unacceptable.
In 1932, veterans marched on Washington and the situation wasn’t nearly this bad.
The goal of the VA goes back to Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Here is what he said:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Wow. When have you heard a politician speak like that? Never.
Today, we have a Federal government that has promised $4.5 Billion to help Syrian refugees across the globe but can’t even fund the VA completely. No, that’s not a joke.
We need to look in the mirror and decide whether we even intend to care for our veterans. Yes, that’s a hard question. But it’s something we need to decide right now.
Talk is cheap. If all we accomplish today is that we talk about our veterans, then that is not enough.
If at the end of the day, the only thing that we have done is talk about what is going on then we will have failed our veterans. Period.
When the clock strikes midnight, 22 veterans will have committed suicide. That isn’t an opinion, it is a fact. Many more will have died because of sub-par care or while waiting for care. It’s not acceptable. Not acceptable at all.