At work tonight, I came across the new Newsweek which had the cover story of our "Forgotten Heroes" depicting the plight of our nations Veterans.
Then, talking to my significant other, she informed me of the Startribune headlines, about 3 deaths in the Minneapolis Veterans Home.
"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."
Governor Pawlenty has ordered the Minnesota Department of Health to take over operations at the Minneapolis Veterans Home, a state owned nursing home.
The governor's action was prompted by the deaths, two years of "not so good"
inspections that found scores of infractions, and the threat by federal
officials on Friday to cut off about $7 million in payments for the care of
veterans at the Minneapolis facility, said Health Commissioner Dianne
At this point, the $7 million is insignificant.
This comes on the heals of the recent suicide of Jonathan Schulze, a 25 year old Marine from Stewart, Minnesota and the horrendous conditions from which our soldiers and Veterans are living through at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
I watched testimony in the past weeks, of administrators and primary care givers from the Veterans Homes, testifying before a Minnesota House committee. Administrators made no indication in the committee that the homes were suffering significant problems. These committee hearings were in late January as well, after these deaths occurred.
Nursing professionals differed in their testimony from the administrators. They discussed great concern over a lack of qualified nurses and conditions that hindered their performance of duties.
Obviously, our military health care system is stretched beyond its means. It's really pathetic.
We deployed for this war with not enough soldiers. General Shinseki fell on his sword for this one.
Once there, our soldiers did not have the equipment needed to protect themselves. Armored Hummers and personal body armor were in such short supply, soldiers had to improvise for their protection.
Some are on their 4th and 5th deployments, tours have been extended.
Soldiers suffer in squalid conditions at Walter Reed and other military facilities.
Veterans go mistreated in state and federally funded facilities.
I am outraged. It shows a complete failure of planning for this war. It's easy for President Bush to send another 21,500 soldiers off to war and call on Congress to fund them, but how much longer are we going to allow him to shift accountability on this war?
Where is Congresswoman Bachmann on this? She ran her campaign on this staunch support of our troops and their mission!
Schulze earned two Purple Hearts in Iraq, but was 26th in line to get help at the St Cloud VA after 46 visits to the VA!
About 50,000 service members so far have been banged up or burned, suffered
disease, lost limbs or sacrificed something less tangible inside them. Schulze
is an extreme example but not an isolated one, and such stories are raising
concerns that the country is failing to meet its most basic obligations to those
who fight our wars.
Despite the fact that more and more soldiers are wounded, those obtaining Army disability ratings are lower than pre-war levels.
"I think a big part of [Walter Reed's problems] is they just don't have
enough people to adequately handle all the wounded troops coming in here every
The same issues surrounding care at Minnesota facilities, surround facilities across the United States.
Yet, as the number of veterans continues to grow, critics worry the VA is in a
state of denial. In a broad sense, the situation at the VA seems to mirror the
overall lack of planning for the war. "We know the VA doesn't have the capacity
to process a large number of disability claims at the same time," says Linda
Bilmes, a Harvard public-finance professor and former Clinton administration
Commerce Department official. Last month Bilmes released a 34-page study on the
long-term cost of caring for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. She projects
that at least 700,000 veterans from the global war on terror (GWOT) will flood
the system in the coming years.
Just like my colleagues waiting for months for benefits, one young soldier waited 17 months for his first VA disability check.
The budget requests and forecasts have not accurately reflected the need for VA health care.
But veterans' support groups and even some former and current VA insiders
believe there's a reluctance in the Bush administration to deal openly with the
long-term costs of the war. (All told, Bilmes projects it could cost as much as $600
billion to care for GWOT veterans over the course of their lifetimes.)
That reluctance, they say, trickles down to the VA, where top managers are
politically appointed. Secretary Jim Nicholson, a decorated Vietnam War veteran
who was chosen by Bush in 2005, tends to be the focus of this criticism.
The complete lack of planning will result in decades upon decades and generations of Veterans suffering.
For every soldier that is killed in Iraq, 16 are injured. So while deaths are down, as compared to other wars, more or our soldiers are being maimed.
As of 2006, there was a 401,701 case back log for Veterans receiving benefits and treatment.
36% of our Veterans are being diagnosed with Mental disorders, post war.
Of 73,000 that have been diagnosed with Mental health disorder, nearly half suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Many of these soldiers will end up in Minnesota Veterans Home's someday. It hits home with me everyday.
Whether it's hearing storied from Nolan about his dad, talking to Jim Klobuchar about Veterans stories he heard on the campaign trail, or my own stories, the enormity of the issue cannot be exaggerated.
12% of our population served in World War II.
2% served in Vietnam.
Less than 1% will have served in Afghanistan or Iraq.
It's sad, but I firmly believe that the American public does not understand what is really happening to our Veterans. Stories that grab headlines in the Startribune and Newsweek are a good start.
Holding our elected leaders who put soldiers in harms way will go a long way towards actually supporting our troops, not another frickin yellow sticker.
Who's going to step up and have "our back"?
We had yours!