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February 18, 2007

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I suppose we hold on to the little details in order to not be overwhelmed, but this stuck in my mind

When the aide called with the news, he told the soldier, "They don't even know you exist."

Why is that not past tense? Why do I think that there will be a spasm of action, followed by more forgetting and ignoring?

The Post seems to be on this story now. I have to think that at some level, the administration and those who are supporting Bush's continued incompetence blame these men for being wounded. Perhaps, I assume the thinking to be, if these men had performed better, they wouldn't be in this situation. There has to be some underlying reason for treating these soldiers like this, and this is the only thing I can come up with.

Christ. The VA was a good medical system; see Kevin Drum on the subject. Then we actually went to war.

"There has to be some underlying reason for treating these soldiers like this, and this is the only thing I can come up with."

I don't know that that's it at all, but there's nothing inconsistent here, I have to say. June:

Washington - Two Senate Democrats on Wednesday criticized a White House plan to cut money intended for food stamps, student loans and farmers to pay for credit monitoring for veterans whose personal and financial data was stolen last month.

[...]

Personal data on about 17.5 million veterans, including their birthdates and Social Security numbers, was stolen last month when a burglar took a laptop containing the information from the home of an analyst for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The analyst was not authorized to take the data home but had been doing so for several years.

The Veterans Affairs Department offered to pay for a year of free credit monitoring for the veterans, which it said would cost about $160.5 million. Last week, the department said it would cover most of that cost by taking money from accounts that pay health and other benefits for veterans.

And we recall Hilzoy blogging on this. Last week:
The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans' health care two years from now — even as badly wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system.

Bush is using the cuts, critics say, to help fulfill his pledge to balance the budget by 2012.

After an increase sought for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing rapidly — by more than 10 percent in many years — White House budget documents assume consecutive cutbacks in 2009 and 2010 and a freeze thereafter.

My post was here, incidentally.

"Read the whole thing."

It's been a stressful day, and I'm cold sober, and I just can't.

Someone has to be directly responsible for the state of veterans' healthcare. And whoever that is has to report to someone, who reports to someone, and eventually it goes to a Cabinet-level someone.

Apparently Wolfowitz didn't ask an aide to follow up or check to see if there were more problems. Was that because he thought the problem was an isolated, one-time instance - or because he didn't want to know it wasn't?

Murtha visits the wounded regularly. Maybe some other congresspersons do, too. And, surely, families of veterans left in such disgraceful conditions wrote to their Representatives and Senators. Did anyone who visited the wounded, or got letters from their families, raise holy hell with anyone in the Veteran's Administration? If not, why not? And if so - and if the VA ignored them - why didn't they raise holy hell on the floor of the House and Senate?

As for the budget cuts... well. What can one say? We know what the Bush Admin's priorities are. Tax cuts come first, second and third, followed by shoveling as much public money as possible to their cronies, followed by more tax cuts.

"And whoever that is has to report to someone, who reports to someone, and eventually it goes to a Cabinet-level someone."

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson, seems worth mentioning here. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been the Cabinet-level Department in charge of veteran's affairs for eighteen years, now.

(President G. H. W. Bush signed it into existence; damn Republicans, always expanding government.)

I feel reminded of an old 18th century soldier's song. last stanza (literal translation):

When we are discharged where do we go?
Our strength is gone, our health is lost
They tell us: no nest for the bird.
Take the beggar's bowl for you have been a soldier!

The times they're not a-changing.

While it's true that proper attention and funding could improve the image at the flagship hospital of the VA system, it's also true that after the war ends, the political response will fade.

Troops are useful for war. When wars end, they're just another constituency begging for help, competing against K Street lobbyists who provide campaign dollars.

That's always been the reality for postwar veterans and I see no reason to believe that'll change.

Just another ugly reality of war, with the cleanup job falling on underpaid nonprofit agency workers for the next quarter century.

But at least we got those WMDs.

I find myself with little left to say that Bruce Cockburn didn't say 23 years ago after traveling in Central America, in "If I Had a Rocket Launcher".

Here's the next article from the WaPo on Walter Reed. Even more heartbreaking than the first, if that is possible.

"That's always been the reality for postwar veterans and I see no reason to believe that'll change.That's always been the reality for postwar veterans and I see no reason to believe that'll change."

Everyone knows about the Bonus Army, right?

"Just another ugly reality of war, with the cleanup job falling on underpaid nonprofit agency workers for the next quarter century."

One of the innumerable temp jobs I've worked in my life was a few months in '79 (possibly '80) at SEA-VAC, the Seattle Veterans Action Center.

I was horrified when I heard about this; it sounds like the overflow is where the worst problems are. Even the people who go to the main hospital might not have encountered these problems... which means, I hope, that a little light will help clear this us. Thanks for shining the light Hilzoy.

I saw your post about wounded soldiers and wondered if you had seen this Sunday's Washington Post story on the wounded :

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/06/AR2007040601821.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2007/04/06/DI2007040601488.html

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