Tomorrow is Veterans Day. My Dad was a vet, so was my father-in-law. Neither liked to talk about their wartime experiences, but from what I could gather, they were transformative. What they saw in battle left lifetime scars, despite the fact that neither had any visible injuries.
We know that is true for the young men and women who are returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers tell of the horrors they've seen, and the emotional scars of carrying those memories. No one is unscathed from their service. It is their courage, selfless commitment, and determination, in the face of dangers seen and unseen, that we must honor.
In the current economic crisis, the new administration will have to make some brutal budget decisions. Programs will be cut; services will be reduced. But let me add my voice to the call for honoring the debt we owe to our vets. We must invest in our VA system to fulfill our promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and his widow and orphan.”
Here are four critical veteran issues that demand immediate attention.
1. Allocate the necessary funds to provide the healthcare that our veterans have earned. More than 5 million vets receive healthcare from the VA -- but the system is stretched beyond capacity and the wait for care is intolerable.
2. Reduce the backlog of VA disability claims. There's more than a six month backlog of claims. Veterans shouldn't have to wage another battle to get the benefits they've earned.
3. Support Advanced Funding for the VA medical budget. Currently, the VA budget is approved annually -- but in 13 of the past 14 years, political bickering has delayed approval. Advanced Funding for the medical budget would mean the VA would know its funding a year in advance and could plan personnel, equipment, and services.
4. Support diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. VA must continue to improve accessibility to mental health care services for all veterans and that takes adequate funding for research and treatment.
Parades are nice; stirring speeches make us proud. But let's make sure that our veterans receive, in a timely fashion, the benefits they've earned.
With love and gratitude to Captain Carol Edelman, Major Melvin Borden, and all the brave men and women who have served our country.